Monday, July 25, 2016

Terror Attacks in Germany - A Wake-up Call for Merkel

Having opened the doors to migrants from conflict zones particularly Syria and Iraq, terror attacks were only inevitable. It is anybody's guess how the people of Germany would react to the spate of attacks and what steps the German government takes to thwart future attacks.

Munich Olympia Mall Shooting
After about 44 years, terror re-visited Munich. In September 1972, Palestinian gunmen belonging to the Black September Organisation killed 11 Israeli athletes who were staying in the Olympic Village at Munich.  On 22 July 2016, an 18-year-old German of Iranian descent Ali David Sonboly opened fire in the vicinity of the Olympia Shopping Mall (Olympia-Einkaufszentrum, OEZ) in the Moosach district of Munich. Incidentally the Munich mall is near the stadium for the 1972 Olympics and the athletes' village. The German police said that at least 9 people were killed in the shooting that was carried out by a lone gunman who is then reported to have committed suicide around 1 kilometre from the scene of the attack. The shooting began in Hanauer Straße and then shifted to the Riesstraße — streets close to the Olympia shopping center — before moving into the mall itself shortly before 6 p.m., according to the official Facebook page of the Munich police. 

The shooter had lived in Munich for at least two years. Munich police chief Hubertus Andra told a press conference it was “totally unclear” whether the incident was an act of terror, though eye witnesses reported that the shooter screamed “Allahu Akbar” while firing.

Twenty-one people, including several children, were taken to the hospital. Police reported that 16 were injured and three were in a critical condition.

The Würzburg Attack

The attack came just days after a 17-year-old asylum seeker Muhammad Riyad went on a rampage with an axe and a knife on a train on Monday near Würzburg, also in Bavaria, injuring five people before being shot dead by the police.

Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere had said that assailant was believed to be a "lone wolf" who appeared to have been "inspired" by Islamic State group but was not a member of the jihadist network.

The train attack triggered calls by some politicians to impose an upper limit on the number of refugees coming into Germany, which accepted a record 1.1 million migrants and refugees last year, many through Bavaria.

On 24th July 2016, a knife-wielding attacker sparked panic, after killing a woman near a Turkish fast-food kiosk in downtown Reutlingen, according to German mass-circulation newspaper "Bild".

Five people were reportedly wounded in the attack and brought to the hospital. A car driver spotted the attacker running away from the scene and hit him with his vehicle, allowing police to grab hold of the suspect and make an arrest, according to a police spokesman cited by the DPA news agency. Police stated that the suspect was a 21-year-old male refugee from Syria known to authorities for previous acts of violence.

Ansbach Bombing

On the night of 24th July 2016, a 27-year-old Syrian man who had been denied asylum in Germany a year ago died when a bomb he was carrying exploded outside a music festival in Ansbach, Germany. Twelve people were wounded in the attack. Bavaria interior minister Joachim Herrmann said the man, carrying a backpack, had apparently been denied entry to the Ansbach Open music festival shortly before the explosion. A large area around the site of the explosion, in the city of around 40,000 people, was still sealed off hours after it occurred outside a restaurant called Eugens Weinstube. More than 2,000 people were evacuated from the festival after the explosion, police said. The bomber was known to police in Ansbach for previous offenses, including drug crimes, Herrmann said. He had also twice attempted suicide before the bombing. 

Ansbach is home to a US army base and the 12th Combat Aviation Brigade with around 5,000 members of the military living there along with civilians, contractors and retirees. There are three military installations in the Ansbach area, according to the garrison's website. A spokesman at the base said the base had no information about the explosion.

[Update: BBC - The Syrian man who blew himself up in Ansbach, Germany, on Sunday made a video pledging allegiance to the leader of so-called Islamic State, Bavaria's interior minister says.

Joachim Hermann said two phones, multiple SIM cards and a laptop were found with the body of the 27-year-old asylum seeker or at his accommodation.

The man threatened a "revenge attack" on Germans in the video, he said.

IS has claimed it was behind the attack and the Syrian was an IS "soldier".

The attacker announced in the video "in the name of Allah that he pledged allegiance to [IS chief] Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi... and announced an act of revenge against Germans because they were standing in the way of Islam," Mr Hermann said.

Further bomb-making equipment was found at the asylum seeker accommodation where the man was living, including a fuel canister, hydrogen peroxide and batteries]. 

The mall shooting occurred just eight days after 31-year-old Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel used a truck to mow down 84 people, including children, after a Bastille Day fireworks display in Nice, the third major attack on French soil in the past 18 months.

In March 2016, Islamic State claimed suicide bombings at Brussels airport and a city metro station that left 32 people dead.

In May, a mentally unstable 27-year-old man carried out a knife attack on a regional train in Bavaria, killing one person and injuring three others.

Tensions between native and immigrant Germans have been on the rise since Germany accepted nearly one million refugees during last year's migrant crisis, in which Bavaria was on the front line.

Although it has been France and Belgium that have been hit by recent atrocities, Germany shares many of the same vulnerabilities.

Just like France and Belgium, Germany has seen significant numbers of its residents join the flow of international jihadists to Iraq and Syria. The most recent figures estimate more than 700 men and women from the country may have left to join extremist groups such as Islamic State and many are likely to have later returned home.

Last month, the German justice ministry admitted the federal prosecutor was conducting 120 investigations into more than 180 suspects and defendants "in connection with the Syrian civil war for their membership or support of a terrorist organisation".

Germany's links to Islamist terrorism go back decades, long before the current troubles.

A small group of radical Middle Eastern Islamists formed in the 1990s known as the Hamburg cell produced three of the 9/11 hijackers.

More recent incidents have included an alleged plot by four suspected Islamic State members last month to launch suicide bombings in the city of Dusseldorf. 

Intelligence agents last year reportedly foiled a plot to detonate three bombs inside a Hanover football stadium during an international friendly.

But social tensions arising from the large influx of refugees have also fuelled a sharp rise in popularity for extreme and sometimes violent far-Right groups.

The police and the German government have repeatedly claimed that except for the July 18 axe attack, none of the other attacks bore any signs of connections with the Islamic State or any other terrorist groups. The Munich shooter apparently had a history of mental illness. However the Syrian responsible for the machete attack in Reutlingen did not have any psychiatric problem. The question that must logically follow is why is that in most of the recent attacks that have taken place in Europe and in Germany, the attackers or the accomplices have always been Muslims either from North Africa or the Middle East and followers of the radical Salafi Islam propagated by the ISIS. Are the governments in the West blind to this fact? Did they try to determine how and where the attackers were radicalized? 

The answer to this question partially lies in the report published in the German daily newspaper "Die Welt" wherein the German Criminal Police Office (BKA) reported a significant increase in Islamist threats. The agency tracked almost 500 threats in the past year. It had tracked 497 instances of "threats" or individuals with extremist views who could be suspected of carrying out terrorist attacks. The agency added that an additional 339 Islamists were also being tracked as "relevant persons," or individuals who may assist and sympathize with terrorist causes.

The report said that the development marked a significant increase from numbers dating back to January 2015, when only 270 potentially violent Islamist individuals were registered in Germany.

Austria's domestic intelligence agency also reported that the number of suspected Islamists in the country had risen, citing increased activity within the "Muslim Brotherhood" terrorist group. The "Kleine Zeitung" daily newspaper examined a particular increase in the state of Styria.

Focus must be on Radical Islam and not Islamophobia

The editor-in-chief of the French satirical magazine "Charlie Hebdo," Gerard Biard, said that too much tolerance was partly to blame for the rise in Islamism across Europe, accusing the political left of being complicit. He said it was "scandalous" that leftwing movements were more interested in defending "Muslims wearing the Burka than in equal pay."

"Islamic propaganda has managed to convince us that criticizing Islamism equates to criticizing Islam itself and therefore qualifies as racism," Biard wrote in a speech cited in Berlin.

European governments need to start acknowledging the fact that they have made a colossal blunder by allowing all and sundry to enter Europe under the garb of refugees. Strangely criminals, drug peddlers and terrorists have made their way to Europe, thanks largely to Angela Merkel’s myopic policy. They need to further acknowledge that these so-called ‘refugees’ pose a very serious threat to European security and its liberal values and freedom. The Ansbach bomber was a Syrian refugee whose application for asylum was rejected, the machete-wielding Syrian who killed a pregnant woman at Reutlingen and the axe wielding teen Muhammad Riyad who attacked passengers at Würzburg will do little to convince Germans that ‘refugees’ don’t pose a serious security risk. Trying to pass off every terror attack as a hate crime or the attacker/s had history of mental illness will undermine West’s war against the ISIS inspired terror attacks at home. (It is reported that from the Orlando shooter to the Nice attacker Bouhlel and the Ansbach bomber had mental problems. Some analysts such as Max Abrahms have termed them "loon-wolves). Europe must start focusing on the domestic jihadi threat posed by its own citizens and those who have entered the continent posing as refugees and stop worrying about Islamophobia.  

 The biggest threat to Europe is radical Islam, not Islamophobia.

1 comment:

Peter Coates said...

Hi Kumar

A very useful report and commentary on the Western European (especially German) pattern of denial about Islamic terrorism.

Merkel and other federal German politicians seem to hold themselves guilty for Germany's racist past (early 1930s to 1945). But the Islamic State inspired knife offensive is causing problems all over Europe, some in Australia and hitting Israel hard (as the "Knife Intifada"

Of course even without the German mistake (inviting around 1 million Muslims in one year) there are many parts of Western Europe with large Islamic populations that haven't found a place in society after decades. Five million Arabs/North Africans in France have been there since the 1960s, unable or blocked from settling into French Catholic society, and can easily cross Europe's porous borders to Belgium, Holland and Germany. The UK-Brexit is making entry more difficult.

What a mess. Thank goodness Aussies are not in denial AND Aystralia has a large "moat" around its border.