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A classified German intelligence report said a "German camp" has been established in Syria for German-speaking jihadists and that German Islamists in Syria have set up media centers to foster recruitment. Eight German jihadists are thought to have died in Syria. The number of European jihadists in Syria has risen to about 1,000, much higher than the 250 estimated in late 2012.
Germany's spy chief said that about 170 German Islamists have traveled to Syria for jihad, and warned that 50 have gone to Syria in recent months. Chancellor Merkel appears likely to win a third term in general elections today.
General Wieker, the head of the German military, told lawmakers that the influence of al-Qaeda linked forces within the Syrian opposition was becoming stronger and stronger. A German newspaper claimed that a German spy ship intercepted calls in recent months from Syrian commanders asking the Assad regime for permission to use chemical weapons but that the permission was repeatedly denied. Another German news report said that German intelligence and the CIA jointly tracked German Islamists from 2005 until 2010, when the cooperation ended.
Chancellor Merkel pushed back from Western plans for an immediate military intervention in Syira, agreeing with Russian president Vladimir Putin that the Syrian crisis can be resolved only by political action, and said that discussions at the UN Security Council should lead to a "unanimous and quick international reaction." Such reaction is a necessary response to the "inhumane poison gas attack against Syrian civilians," she said. Merkel also called on Germans to welcome Syrian refugees.
A German media report said intelligence sources claimed that the recently intercepted communications between al Qaeda leaders included discussion of attacking European railways. German authorities are said to have taken discreet measures in response, including the deployment of plain-clothed police in stations and on trains.
German authorities have asked Sweden to investigate an Iranian linked to a plan by extremist cleric Mullah Krekar to create a terror network of Europeans aimed at establishing an Islamic caliphate in Kurdistan. At least 10 people, residing in Norway, Germany, the UK, Switzerland, and Iraq, are suspected of links to the network, known as "Rawt."
Police are investigating two Tunisian men suspected of plotting to carry out terrorist attacks via model airplanes; raids were carried out in Belgium and in the German states of Bavaria, Baden-Wurttemberg, and Saxony. Police also searched the apartments of four suspected accomplices in Munich and Stuttgart who are believed to have "provided financing for the militant jihad." Some of the suspects are aerospace engineering students at the University of Stuttgart, where they learn to program model planes for specific flight routes.
The Foreign Ministry said Germany would stick to its position of not providing weapons to a country in a civil war, despite the US decision to step up arms to Syrian rebels in the wake of confirmation that the Assad regime had used chemical weapons. Germany has been providing bulletproof vests and first aid supplies to the Free Syrian Army.
The annual report of Germany's domestic intelligence agency noted that the number of Islamists surged last year; membership in Milli Görüs, the largest Islamist organization in the country, or Hezbollah in Germany, rose to 42,550 in 2012 from 38,080 in 2011, and the number of Salafists rose to 4,500 from 3,800 during the same time period. On the other hand, membership in the far-right National Democratic Party (NPD) declined to 6,000.
Although the head of Germany's federal police, the BKA, had warned of a possible bombing by several Islamist terrorists against the 2013 soccer championship final in Berlin on May 25, the event went off smoothly. Increased security measures had been implemented in Berlin at the event and at other locations across the country.
A Somali man was arrested at a refugee center in Giessen and is accused of acting as a bookkeeper for pirates who hijacked the tanker Marida Marguerite in May 2010 and held the crew for six months until a multimillion-dollar ransom was paid. Last year another Somali involved in the Marida Margerite hijacking, Mohammad Saaili Shibin, was sentenced by a US court to life in prison for hijacking a yacht and killing the four Americans on board in 2009.
The Interior Minister said the government is aware that known jihadists have traveled to Syria to fight with the rebels, and that there have been calls for European fighters to return home for jihad; he said Germany is following the development with "great concern." German officials believe that German jihadists, including Reda Seyam, are assisting with fundraising for Islamist fighters in Syria.
Germany announced a plan to keep as many as 800 military trainers in Afghanistan after the NATO withdrawal in 2014. The plan calls for reducing the number of German soldiers in the country to about 300 by 2017.
European security officials are looking into the possibility that an Iranian-run factory in Dinslaken may have been supplying equipment and materials for Iran's nuclear weapons program. Germany sent a plane to Syria to bring back over 30 Syrians wounded in the Syrian conflict to Germany for treatment.
The Foreign and Interior ministers have indicated that they would support a European Union ban on the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah if its role in the 2012 suicide attack in Burgas, Bulgaria is confirmed. France remains opposed to such a ban.
Three suspects arrested yesterday for plotting to murder the leader of a far-right political party hold German passports and the fourth suspect is an Albanian. Raids yesterday on some 20 apartments belonging to Salafists did not result in any arrests, but laptops, cash, propaganda material, and phones were confiscated. One of the Salafist groups banned yesterday is suspected of helping to fund Islamist groups in Syria.
Authorities banned three radical Islamist groups -- DawaFFM, Islamic Audios, and al-Nussrah -- and raided 21 apartments and a meeting room. The three groups all encourage fighting against those who do not follow the Salafist version of Islam. The German Salafist movement has grown from some 3,800 In 2011 to about 4,500, of whom 30% are non-Germans and 25% are Muslim converts. Four Salafists were arrested last night for planning the murder of a far-right political party leader.
A German-language jihadist propaganda video has surfaced, featuring a Syrian Islamist fighter named Hajan M. who urges Germans to come fight with rebels in Syria. Authorities say the number of Salafists in North Rhine-Westphalia has doubled within a year to 1,000 men, including about 100 who are trained jihadists. The Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) estimates that 900 people with "Islamist-terrorist potential" are in Germany, including 250 who have completed paramilitary training abroad.
The government approved the deployment of some 330 troops to Mali; up to 180 of them will participate in the European Union training mission. Two Iranian men were charged in Frankfurt state court with smuggling dozens of German-made motors to Iran for its Ababil III drone, which is used for both surveillance and attacks.
German intelligence confirmed that Abu Azzam, a German believed to be a radical Salafist who moved to Egypt last year, posted a video threatening to kill Chancellor Merkel and blow up the Reichstag. The jihadist's threats were made in the name of Osama bin Laden and also included a threat to US President Obama.