Fears over Germany extremism

By Frank Zeller — Berlin’s Christmas market truck rampage was the deadly extremist attack Germany had long feared, as security services have warned of the growth of a shadowy extremism. Rarely a week has gone by in past years without the arrest of a radical preacher, an extremist backing the IS or other extremist groups with money, arms or propaganda, or of a fighter returning from Syria or Iraq.
Germany’s domestic security chief, Hans-Georg Maassen, has likened the rise in IS followers to a dangerous “youth subculture”.
He said while it has drawn some home-grown converts and many female recruits, the main target group has shared the “four Ms” profile — male, Muslim, with a migrant background and a history of personal misadventure.
It is a profile that fits 24-year-old Tunisian Anis Amri, the Berlin attack suspect shot dead on Friday by an Italian police officer in Milan.
An illegal migrant, drug dealer and ex-convict, he is seen in a video message pledging allegiance to IS chief Abu Bakr al Baghdadi before he mowed a stolen truck through a Christmas market, leaving 12 dead.
It was the deadliest IS assault on German soil, but the country has already produced its share of extremist killers.
Perhaps Germany’s most notorious IS fighter is Denis Cuspert, a German-Ghanaian former Berlin rapper known as Deso Dogg, who has appeared in an IS video with a man’s severed head.
In Germany, a leading alleged IS recruiter is Iraqi Ahmad Abdulaziz Abdullah A., also known as Abu Walaa or “the faceless preacher” for propaganda videos that showed him from behind.
Police in November arrested him and four others in Hildesheim — a northern town, along with the industrial region of North Rhine-Westphalia.
After Monday’s Berlin attack, it emerged that Amri had also been in contact with the “hate preacher”, one of the leading voices of a movement that has grown sharply in recent years.
The domestic security service estimates that the number of radical extremists in Germany rose above 9,000 this year, from some 3,800 in 2011.  About 550 are considered capable of a violent attack, a list that included Amri.
This year, Germany has been shocked by a spate of attacks committed by young followers,  including some who were among the more than one million migrants and refugees who arrived in the past two years.
Peter Neumann, head of International Centre for Study of Radicalisation at King’s College, London, said that for some marginalised youths, IS represents “a kind of protest ideology, a counterculture”. —AFP