Terror in Europe

Germany Warns Of ISIS Infiltration, Recruitment Of Refugees

Top German security officials say criminals and violent Islamists are using the asylum crisis to recruit refugees. They especially target minors traveling alone.

Refugees in Dresden, Germany
Refugees in Dresden, Germany
Stefan Aust, Michael Behrendt, Manuel Bewarder and Claus Christian Malzahn*

BERLIN â€" Germany's top domestic security official is warning that ISIS is actively recruiting among the new waves of refugees arriving in the country.

Hans-Georg Maaßen, president of Germany's Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, told Die Welt that Islamist terror groups are busy trying to recruit refugees, especially young men who have traveled without their families and are looking for people to connect with.

"We have counted about 300 direct approaches," Maaßen says. "And we do think that the real number is a lot higher than the reported cases we know of. We especially worry about the many unaccompanied minors. The recruitment process holds an enormous potential for radicalization."

Radical elements in mosques and Arabic-speaking criminal networks also see the potential in connecting with refugees, he said, "especially young and physically strong men."

Maaßen further warns that the ISIS terror group is using the flood of refugees to infiltrate combatants. "ISIS is planning on attacking Germany and German values," he told Die Welt. German cities have been named in the same context as Paris, London and Brussels.

André Schulz, head of the Federation of German Detective Officers (BDK), says that there are thousands of immigrants in Germany whose origins are unknown. "We don't know where they came from and where they are right now," Shulz says. He characterizes that situation as unacceptable for a constitutional state.

"The assumption of some politicians that it's highly unlikely that ISIS combatants would enter the country by mixing in with refugees is simply naïve," Shulz said.

German authorities are currently looking for dangerous Islamists who have disappeared â€" among them 76 violent individuals with outstanding arrest warrants. In 2015, approximately 150 Islamists left Germany to return to Iraq or Syria. Over the years, 800 departures have been counted. Among them, approximately 130 are dead, 80 of them killed in fighting last year. About 70 have actively participated in battles or have gone through some sort of a military training.

*This is an abbreviated version of the original article.

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Dutch Cities Have Been Secretly Probing Mosques Since 2013

Revelations of a nationally funded clandestine operation within 10 municipalities in the Netherlands to keep tabs on mosques and Muslim organizations after a rise in radicalization eight years ago.

The Nasser mosque in Veenendaal, one of the mosques reportedly surveilled

Meike Eijsberg

At least ten Dutch towns and cities have secretly used a private agency to probe mosques and other local religious organizations, Amsterdam-based daily het NRC reports in an exclusive investigation.

The clandestine operation — funded by NCTV, the National Security Services, the Netherlands' leading counter-terrorism agency — was prompted by the social unrest and uncertainty following multiple terror attacks in 2013, and a rise in Islamic radicalization.

The NCTV, which advises and financially supports municipalities in countering radicalization, put the municipalities in touch with Nuance by Training and Advice (Nuance door Trainingen en Advies, NTA), a private research agency based in Deventer, Netherlands. Among the institutions targeted by the investigations, which came at a cost of circa 500,000 euros, were the Al Mouahidin mosque in the central Dutch town of Ede, and the Nasser mosque east of the city of Utrecht, according to NRC.

Photo of people standing on prayer mats inside a Dutch mosque

Praying inside a Dutch mosque.


Broken trust in Islamic community

Unlike public officials, the private agency can enter the mosques to clandestinely research the situation. In this case, the agents observed activity, talk to visitors, administrators, and religious leaders, and investigated what they do and say on social media.

All findings then wound up in a secret report which includes personal details about what the administrators and teachers studied, who their relatives are, with whom they argued, and how often they had contact with authorities in foreign countries, like Morocco.

Leaders of the Muslim organizations that were secretly probed say they feel betrayed.

It is unclear whether the practice is legal, which is why several members of the Dutch Parliament are now demanding clarification from the outgoing Minister of Justice and Security, Ferd Grapperhaus, who is said to be involved.

"The ease with which the government violates (fundamental) rights when it comes to Islam or Muslims is shocking," Stephan van Baarle, member of the leftist party DENK, told De Volkskrant, another Dutch newspaper.

Leaders of the Muslim organizations that were secretly probed say they feel betrayed. Hassan Saidi, director of one of the mosques investigated, said that the relationship with the local municipality had been good. "This puts a huge dent in the trust I'd had in the municipality," he told the Dutch public broadcaster NOS.

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