There is much curiosity to know why Germany is considered as a safe haven and a centre for carrying out terrorist operations inside and outside Europe.
The country’s image as a hub of extremist activity is complicated by the fact that it seems to attract all types of networks: the Muslim Brotherhood which regards southern Germany’s Munich city as a potential centre of its activities in Europe since the 1940s as well as other extremist Islamist groups such as Salafi jihadist, Al Qaeda, ISIS and Hezbollah. This comes in addition to right-wing and left-wing radical groups.
The infamous September 11, 2001 terrorist event was planned and launched by the Hamburg Cell, based out of the German city of Hamburg.
The Abu Al-Walla Al-Iraqi network was also known for providing logistical support to ISIS from within Germany, by sending individuals and groups to fight alongside ISIS since 2014.
This also includes Hezbollah which has taken Germany as a safe haven since the 1980s as well as a basic source of funding to operate terrorist attacks.
After the defeat of ISIS by the international coalition, around 500 fighters of the Islamic ISIS fled through Turkey, Syria and Iraq to Europe, according to the investigative program “The French TV channel M6 Enquête”.
These terrorist groups have settled in some European countries mostly in Germany. Despite a crackdown by the German intelligence services which resulted in many arrests, some of the Jihadists are still living relatively free in Germany.
The Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz) monitors with deep concern the growing influence of the Muslim Brotherhood in the Eastern state of Saxony.
Gordian Meyer-Platt, head of Germany’s domestic intelligence agency in Saxony, said that the Muslim Brotherhood exploited– through organizations such as the Cultural Association of Saxony Forum – lack of places of worship for Muslims who came to Saxony as refugees, to expand their structures and spread their perception of political Islam.
The Muslim Brotherhood
The Muslim Brotherhood was established in Germany since the 1960s by Saeed Ramadan who was able to assume the presidency of the Islamic Center in Munich, which is still the headquarters of the Brotherhood.
The group controls several Islamic centres in Frankfurt (Main), Marburg, Nuremberg, Stuttgart, Cologne, Munster, Braunschweig and other major cities.
The close ties between the Egyptian and Syrian branches of the MB were formalized in 1994 when their supporters established the Central Council of Muslims in Germany (Zentralrat der Muslime in Deutschland (ZMD), the umbrella organization of the Muslim Brotherhood in Germany.
The number of leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood organization in Germany is about 1,350. German internal intelligence classifies the Muslim Brotherhood as a source of threat to democracy in Germany and more dangerous than ISIS.
The Muslim Brotherhood in Germany also seeks to constantly attract new supporters by targeting Muslims and organizing social activities for Muslim communities.
The ISIS member Abdul-Aziz Abdullah
The story of the most potent member of ISIS, Abdul-Aziz Abdullah, known as Abu Alwalla Al Iraqi, is a good example of how Jihadists are providing logistic support to ISIS from inside Germany.
Providing logistical support to ISIS from inside Germany, Ahmed Abdulaziz Abdullah moved from Iraq in 2000. He settled with his family in the town of Tönisvorst in North Rhine-Westphalia.
He established himself as the most influential Salafi jihadist in Germany. He was called Abu Walla Al-Iraqi as well as Sheikh Hildesheim and the preacher who has no face.
He preached at the Deutschsprachiger Islamkreis mosque in the city of Hildesheim in Lower Saxony.
What is interesting to know is that the mosque turned into a meeting point for the extremist Salafist, not only from Lower Saxony, but also from outside it, and the mosque became one of the centres of the Salafi jihadist scene. It is believed that about 20 men who left Germany to join ISIS in Iraq and Syria have turned to extremism through the mosque.
Abu Walla pledged allegiance to ISIS and created a network to recruit young German ISIS fighters. He provided financial and logistical assistance to recruits to travel to conflict areas in Syria and Iraq.
He was in contact with Anis Omri, the perpetrator of the Berlin Christmas Market attack. Abu Wala Al-Iraqi owned accounts on social networks such as Telegram and Facebook, and the number of fans of his page reached about 25, 000 people.
He was broadcasting his thoughts and sermons on his official YouTube channel, and most of the preacher's videos did not show his face. He owned a special application called ‘Abu Walaa’ in the Apple Store, where smartphone users of his supporters could track his activities.
On February 10th 2021, the Public Prosecutor announced that last year 381 investigations related to Islamist extremism had been opened.
According to Federal Prosecutor Peter Frank, about 60 percent of the total new investigations in the Terrorism Department were related to Islamists. The response stated that in 2021 it could also be expected that the country would be subjected to violence by jihadists.
In details that emerged about the Hamburg cell’s activities, after the Hamburg connection was discovered two days after the U.S. attacks, prosecutor Kay Nehm described how the hijackers and their alleged accomplices became acquainted at a mosque frequented by vehemently anti-Western Muslims.
The Hamburg cell played a decisive role in the attacks on the United States in 2001. Some members of the cell met while studying at a German college. Among the most prominent members of the cell are the Egyptian Muhammad Atta, who arrived in Hamburg in 1992.
The Lebanese Ziyad Jarrah, and the Moroccan, Said Bahaji and Munir al-Motassadeq were also members of the cell and visited Al-Quds Mosque in Hamburg repeatedly and met with many extremists, including the radical preacher Muhammad Al-Fazazi, before the events of September 11, 2001.
The discovery of the Hamburg cell was a shock to the German authorities, as they had been clearly sleeper cells for a long time. Although German intelligence was aware of the extremism of the Hamburg cell members, they were unaware of the true threat level of the danger they represented.
There was much criticism against Germany, when intelligence reports said that there are a great number of Arab clans, Russians and Eastern Europeans operating money laundering gigs from inside Germany.
It was too late when German security services realized that since 2019 Arab and foreign gangs and the Mafia were laundering money especially from Berlin, Frankfurt and other major cities.
There are many facts that let gangs be operative, mostly, the German law, that allow people to buy some expensive things cash without using the banking system.
It is good to know that German laws do not require an upper limit for cash payments unless the amount exceeds 10,000 euros.
Only then the buyer must show his personal identification documents, unlike the situation in Italy, which does not allow cash purchases when the amount exceeds 1000 Euros. This is what makes Germany a destination for the mafia, according to Italian Senator and anti-Mafia fighter Laura Garavini. Transfer and credit card purchases "allow the authorities to trace their source," Garavini said.
Members of government and parliament have been asking for stricter rules to curb this practice since it has led to uncontrolled rising rents and purchase prices.
BaFin´s role in preventing money laundering
The German BaFin department’s job is mostly to prevent the misuse of the financial system for the purpose of money laundering, terrorist financing and other criminal offences, which can lead to a threat to assets of an institute. Bodies in the financial sector subject to the money laundering supervision of BaFin include not just credit and financial services payment institutions, but also life insurance undertakings and asset management.
The project manages investigations to prevent money laundering and crime, terrorism, multinational money laundering and corporate management.
It is believed that organized crime has become a problem in Germany,. But fighting money launderers has proven to be difficult. Transactions from Italy, Russia, Ukraine and Belarus caught the investigators' attention. In addition to real estate agents, restaurant and amusement arcade owners, it appears to have also become common among individuals, to allow criminals to use their bank accounts for money laundering purposes.
Politicians and media outlets had long avoided the topic for fear of accusations of xenophobia. German crime clans have long earned infamy with violence and brazen robberies but now, police warn, they have targeted a new generation of refugees for recruitment.
Counter Terror Policies
Germany is working seriously to form an operations room to exchange information through a regular meeting held at the Berlin Counter-Terrorism Center, to present, discuss and exchange data and information directly. This means that the establishment of operating rooms for the security and intelligence services and the departments concerned with national security avoids a lot of the bureaucracy of dealing.
Germany is working seriously now to re-equip the security services and put them in a good position to meet the challenges. German officials believe that overcoming the challenges of terrorism will require enforcing improved cooperation between intelligence services and police agencies.