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 Global Counterterrorism Forum and in multilateral CT operations in Africa and the Middle East. In 2020, Germany allocated more resources toward combating all forms of terrorism, including REMVE. Law enforcement targeted a range of suspects, including Islamist terrorists and REMVE actors. German officials consider the latter to be the greatest threat to national security. The Cabinet Committee to Combat Right-Wing Extremism and Racism agreed on a package of awareness-raising measures, aimed at more prevention and protection against discrimination and greater recognition of a pluralistic society. The government plans to commit approximately $1.2 billion for these projects between 2021 and 2024, with another $183 million pending budget committee agreement.
The 2019 report by Germany’s domestic security agency (the most recent statistics available) reported there were 32,080 REMVE actors, compared with 24,100 in 2018, of whom 13,000 were considered “potentially violent,” which Germany classifies as violent, willing to use violence, supporting violence, or advocating violence. The number of violent crimes committed by “right wing” actors declined by 15 percent, from 1,088 in 2018 to 925 in 2019. The number of “left wing” violent extremists increased from 32,000 in 2018 to 33,500 in 2019, of whom 9,200 are considered potentially violent. Though violent acts decreased by 8.8 percent to 921, overall left-wing violent extremist crimes increased by 39.5 percent — from 4,622 in 2018 to 6,449 in 2019.
2020 Terrorist Incidents
- In February a far-right violent extremist killed 10 people and wounded 5 others in an ethnically motivated terrorist shooting in Hanau, before killing his mother and himself. The attacker posted a manifesto and videos on his website expressing xenophobic and misogynistic motivations.
- In May, police raided the home of an elite special operations unit soldier, uncovering a cache of weapons and explosives. The unit (Kommando Spezialkräfte, or KSK) was officially disbanded in August when more than 70 KSK members were linked to right-wing violent extremism.
- In October a man wearing army fatigues and wielding a shovel attacked and wounded a Jewish man exiting a synagogue in Hamburg during the Jewish holiday of Sukkot.
- Also in October a 20-year-old Syrian asylum seeker stabbed a German same-sex couple in Dresden, killing one man and seriously injuring the other. The suspect had been released in September after serving a three-year sentence and undergoing a deradicalization-from-violence program.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: In June the government approved a change to the Legal Status of Military Personnel Act, which would make it easier to dismiss soldiers who engage in “extremist activities.” The proposed changes must be approved by the Bundestag.
Both federal and state-level law enforcement agencies conduct CT investigations, coordinated through the Joint Counterterrorism Center, consisting of 40 internal law enforcement and security agencies. In 2020 the Federal Prosecutor’s Office opened approximately 490 new terrorism investigations and filed 10 indictments. Germany’s numbers of Gefährder (potentially violent persons) increased in 2019. Germany prioritized asylum reform and border security under its EU presidency.
Significant law enforcement actions in 2020 included the following:
- The Federal Ministry of the Interior banned all Hizballah activity in Germany in April. Police raided multiple mosque associations suspected of providing financial and propaganda support. In July, authorities alleged 50 members of Bremen’s al-Mustafa community center were involved in financial support of Hizballah.
- The Federal Ministry of the Interior banned four right-wing violent extremist organizations under the Law on Associations: Combat 18, Geeinte deutsche Völker und Stämme, Nordadler, and Sturmbrigade 44. This occurred in January, March, June, and December, respectively.
- Germany repatriated a small group of ISIS-affiliated women and children in late December; however, Germany law enforcement only took one of the women into custody and released her shortly thereafter.
The Federal Criminal Police Office (Bundeskriminalamt, or BKA) further developed its counterterrorism strategy and associated organizational structure to combat right-wing violent extremism. It will take a three-level approach:
- Increasing enforcement pressure and the development of risk-assessment instrument “RADAR-rechts” (first level)
- Identifying networks faster and more efficiently (second level)
- Combating online hate crime with the establishment of a Central Reporting Unit for Criminal Contents on the Internet (third level)
Strengthening interagency cooperation among various security authorities complements this three-level approach. The BKA has restructured its State Security Division and increased staffing levels to implement these changes.
In July the trial against Halle attacker Stephan Baillet began. The court sentenced him to life imprisonment for murder, attempted murder, and incitement in December.
In October the Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz released a report recording more than 1,400 cases of suspected right-wing extremists among soldiers, police officers, and intelligence agents. Covering a period beginning in 2017 and ending in March, the report is the first attempt to document “right-wing infiltration” of German security services.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Germany is a member of FATF and has the presidency from 2020 until 2022. 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 is undergoing a FATF mutual evaluation in 2020-21. Germany is also a member of the Defeat-ISIS CIFG.
The North Rhine-Westphalia Task Force Against Terror Financing, Organized Crime, and Money Laundering and the Düsseldorf public prosecutor increased efforts to investigate “hawala” operations, announcing 149 new investigations in July.
Countering Violent Extremism: In 2019, Germany increased funding for existing counterterrorist radicalization and recruitment programs. Federal funding for measures to prevent radicalization to violence and promote deradicalization from violence has steadily increased over the past five years, from about $52 million in 2015 to $188 million in 2019. The German government provides additional funds for programs and measures in the field of primary prevention and civic education. Final figures for 2020 are not yet available. Most 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 deradicalization from violence through the internet, refugee integration, and prisons. These programs have mandatory evaluation requirements and local research institutions have begun to review efforts to counter terrorist radicalization and recruitment. The federal government announced it will continue funding for preventing extremism in the 2020 budget plan, including training for German speaking imams.
The federal Live Democracy! program is a cornerstone of the government’s strategy to counter terrorist radicalization, prevent hate crimes, and promote democracy. In 2020 the government allocated about $140 million for related projects in Germany.
The German cities of Augsburg, Berlin, Dresden, and Düsseldorf are members of the Strong Cities Network.
International and Regional Cooperation: In 2019, Germany assumed co-leadership of the GCTF West Africa Working Group and in November dedicated $8.2 million for border management projects in West Africa. 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. Germany remains an active participant in other GCTF initiatives. The country 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.