Overview: Germany continued its CT cooperation with the United States and the international community as a member of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS and the GCTF and in multilateral CT operations in Africa and the Middle East. In 2019, Germany allocated more resources toward combating all forms of terrorism. Law enforcement targeted a range of suspects, including Islamist terrorists and REMT actors. German officials describe the latter as an increasing trend and the greatest threat to national security. A new 10-point plan outlined in October 2019 commits, among other things, to create more than 700 new jobs in federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies focused on combating REMT (which Germany refers to as “right-wing extremism), including a dedicated unit to monitor related online activities. The 2018 report by Germany’s domestic security agency, which contains the most recent statistics available, reported there were 24,100 REMT actors, 100 more than in 2017, of whom 12,700 were considered “violence-oriented.” The number of violent crimes committed by these extremists rose by 3.2 percent, from 1,054 in 2017 to 1,088 in 2018.
2019 Terrorist Incidents:
- In June 2019, a Neo-Nazi extremist shot and killed politician Walter Lübcke (of the Christian Democratic Union).
- On October 9, a man armed with multiple firearms and home-made bombs attempted to force his way into a synagogue in Halle during Yom Kippur prayers, instead killing two other victims at random. The perpetrator posted video and text material online expressing extremist anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant, and misogynistic ideology and admiration for earlier perpetrators of racially or ethnically motivated terrorism.
- On November 19, police arrested a Syrian national in Berlin on suspicion of planning a terrorist attack and communicating with Islamist extremists on ways to manufacture weapons and explosives.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Germany bolstered its CT tools in 2019 through amendments to the Nationality Act that entered into force on August 8. Germans with dual citizenship who participate in combat activities for a foreign terrorist group abroad can now lose their German citizenship. The amendment applies only to adults who have a second nationality. It will not be applied retroactively, and thus will not apply to German citizen fighters currently held in SDF custody in Syria.
In a ruling related to a legal petition by German citizen family members of a FTF to be repatriated from the conflict zone, the Berlin/Brandenburg Higher Administrative Court ruled November 6 that the importance of preserving the constitutionally protected family unit must be weighed against the potential security threat posed by the returnee. The court stated it must individually review each case of returning citizen FTFs, their spouses, and their children.
Both federal and state-level law enforcement agencies conduct CT investigations. They are coordinated through the Joint Counter-Terrorism Center, consisting of 40 internal law enforcement and security agencies. In 2019, the Federal Prosecutor’s Office opened 590 new terrorism investigations. Law enforcement agencies significantly increased the number of Gefährder (dangerous persons) deported in 2019, but federal statistics are not yet available. Germany continued to participate in international efforts to enhance border security. It adopted legislation to collect and analyze PNR data under EU law, though there is currently a legal challenge to the storage of this data.
Significant law enforcement actions in 2019 included:
- In November, the court began a trial against a German soldier who posed as a Syrian refugee to orchestrate a terror attack against politicians in hopes of framing Islamist extremists.
- The government dedicated increased resources to combating REMT, including risk assessment systems and online monitoring tools. The Federal Criminal Police Office will hire hundreds of new staff to work on this threat.
Germany continued to examine the circumstances that led to the December 19, 2016, Christmas Market terror attack. The Bundestag and two state parliaments (North-Rhine Westphalia and Berlin) continued to conduct hearings to evaluate law enforcement’s performance in the case, including law enforcement coordination among different agencies and states, and police practices.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Germany is a member of the FATF. Its FIU, the Financial Intelligence Unit Germany, is a member of the Egmont Group. The FIU is working to eliminate a backlog of cases and will undergo a FATF Mutual Evaluation Report in 2020. Germany is also a member of the Defeat ISIS Coalition’s CIFG.
The North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) Task Force against Terror Financing, Organized Crime, and Money Laundering and the Düsseldorf public prosecutor executed 62 search warrants across NRW and coordinated raids in Baden-Württemberg, Berlin, Hamburg, Hesse, and the Netherlands on November 18.
The Federal Criminal Police and Europol assisted Spanish law enforcement with uncovering a 71-year-old Iraqi-born Spanish citizen who was funding the return of ISIS fighters to Europe through a hawala system of remittances. Spanish authorities arrested the perpetrator in November 2019, though investigations are ongoing.
Countering Violent Extremism: In 2019, Germany maintained funding for existing countering terrorist radicalization and recruitment programs and earmarked a total of $255 million for programs that target all types of terrorism, including a $118 million National Prevention Strategy Against Islamist Extremism and special programs concerning returning FTFs and their families. The majority of programs are federally funded, led jointly by the Federal Interior and Family Ministries, and implemented locally through the states and NGOs. The program focuses on local communities, schools, and refugee integration centers giving special attention to prevention and de-radicalization through the internet, refugee integration, and prisons. These programs have mandatory evaluation requirements and local research institutions have begun to engage in research related to countering radicalization and recruitment. The federal government announced it will continue its funding for preventing “extremism” in the 2020 budget plan.
The federal “Live Democracy!” program is a cornerstone of the government’s strategy to counter terrorist radicalization, prevent enmity against people, and promote democracy. The government allocated approximately $127 million for related projects in Germany. The German cities of Augsburg, Berlin, Dresden, and Düsseldorf are members of the SCN. In 2019, the cities of Bonn, Cologne, and Dusseldorf participated in a City Pair exchange with U.S. cities Anaheim and San Diego.
International and Regional Cooperation: In 2019, Germany assumed co-leadership of the GCTF West Africa Working Group. The United States and Germany were co-leaders of the GCTF “Initiative to Counter Unmanned Aerial System Threats,” which led to the Berlin Memorandum on Good Practices for Countering Terrorist Use of Unmanned Aerial Systems, endorsed at the Tenth GCTF Ministerial Plenary Meeting in New York in September 2019. Germany remains an active participant in other GCTF initiatives. In May 2019, Germany organized a workshop, Strengthening Capacities to Prevent and Counter Terrorism by Enhancing Cross-Border Collaboration and Information Exchange on Foreign Terrorist Fighters Between Law Enforcement Agencies, under the auspices of the GCTF FTF Working Group. Germany also cooperates with other OSCE-participating states in the fight against terrorism.