Overview: Germany continued its counterterrorism cooperation with the United States and the international community as a member of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS (and co-leader of the coalition’s Stabilization Working Group) and the Global Counterterrorism Forum and in multilateral CT operations in Africa and the Middle East. In 2021, Germany allocated more resources toward combating all forms of terrorism. German officials consider REMVE actors to be the greatest threat to domestic security. The COVID-19 pandemic was a driver for extremists with anti-government ideologies. Germany’s domestic intelligence agency (the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution) added, in April, a new category of extremism called “delegitimization of the state.”
2021 Terrorist Incidents: There were no terrorist incidents reported in Germany in 2021.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: The Act to Combat Right Wing Extremism and Hate Crimes entered into force on April 3. The Act amends several laws and obligates major social media companies to report suspected illegal content to authorities. Separate legislation that provides protections for politicians under threat and individuals disparaged for their national, racial, religious/ethnic origin, ideology, disability, or sexual orientation entered into force September 22. In July, the German Parliament passed legislation to strengthen the surveillance capabilities of the domestic intelligence service. The increasing use of encrypted communication poses challenges when conducting targeted surveillance. In March, Parliament passed a Foreign Intelligence Law that regulates and increases oversight of the German Foreign Intelligence Service.
Federal and state law enforcement agencies both conduct CT investigations. They coordinate through the Joint Counterterrorism Center, consisting of 40 internal law enforcement, security and migration agencies to coordinate on work against Islamist-based terrorism. For right, left, and nationalist-based extremism and terrorism, the Joint Extremism and Terrorism Prevention Center in Cologne is the site of interagency coordination. In 2021, the Federal Prosecutor’s Office opened about 420 new terrorism investigations.
German authorities collect API and use PNR analysis to combat serious crime and terrorism according to the relevant EU laws. German border management data systems, equipment, and infrastructure are highly developed.
Germany repatriated eight ISIS-affiliated women and 23 children in October, arresting six of the women. Germany uses a comprehensive approach to deradicalization and reintegration under the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees, which includes cooperation and services at state and local levels. Germany is not repatriating FTFs. In November, the Frankfurt Higher Regional court found an Iraqi national and former ISIS member, who was extradited to Germany, guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity for the enslavement of a Yazidi woman and her child, who died. He was sentenced to life in prison. His German wife was sentenced to 10 years for aiding and abetting the child’s death.
Significant law enforcement actions in 2021 included the following:
- In September, police arrested a 16-year-old Syrian national for online contact with a known bomb specialist and on suspicion of plotting an attack on a synagogue during Yom Kippur. He is suspected to have been in contact with ISIS members in the Middle East. No bombs were found, and the investigation was ongoing at year’s end.
- In August, police arrested a 20-year-old German Moroccan for trying to buy a pistol and a hand grenade on the dark web. Chemicals for building an explosive device were found in his possession, but no target was identified.
- In April, the trial against 12 alleged members/supporters of the “right wing” terrorist group Gruppe S began. The defendants, arrested in 2020, are accused of amassing weapons and developing plans to commit political assassinations and attack migrants and Muslims.
Germany is limited by its postwar security architecture with a strict organizational separation of law enforcement and intelligence agencies. Privacy and data protection laws place significant limits on the collection and retention of data.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Germany’s Law on Associations gives the Interior Ministry authority to ban groups if their goals violate the criminal code. In May, the government banned Ansaar International e.V. and eight affiliates for using charitable donations to support terrorist organizations such as Jabhat al-Nusra, Hamas, and al-Shabab. Police conducted 70 search and seizure raids across 10 states. In May, the government banned and took measures against three associations suspected of fundraising for Hizballah, which was banned and designated a terrorist organization in 2020. Germany is also a member of the Defeat-ISIS Counter-ISIS Finance Group.
Countering Violent Extremism: The Strategy to Prevent Extremism and Promote Democracy (2016) guides the government’s activities. Most programs are federally funded, led jointly by the Federal Interior and Family Ministries, and implemented through the states and NGOs. The federal Live Democracy! program is a cornerstone of the government’s strategy. In 2021, the budget for the program was increased to $166.3 million, to expand its programs on right-wing extremism and polarization of society. The Interior Ministry plans to use the amended Network Enforcement Act (2017) to address unlawful internet content. Augsburg, Berlin, Dresden, Düsseldorf, and Halle are members of the Strong Cities Network.
International and Regional Cooperation: Germany is a member of the GCTF and co-chaired the GCTF’s Capacity Building in the West Africa Region Working Group. Germany also cooperated with other OSCE participating states in the fight against terrorism. Germany was a co-leader for the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS’s Stabilization Working Group, helping lead the effort in setting stabilization priorities in Iraq and Syria. It was also a member of the Foreign Terrorist Fighter, Counter-ISIS Finance, and Communications Working Groups.