Items confiscated by police in a raid against Salafist extremists who plotted an attack in Germany in 2017
Items confiscated by police in a raid against Salafist extremists who plotted an attack in Germany in 2017

Have you been given a copy of the Koran or encouraged to visit a particular mosque since you arrived in Germany? If you have, according to the German domestic intelligence service, you may be in the sights of a Jihadist organization.

In 2016 came the shocking news that a plot to bomb a Berlin airport had been planned by a Syrian refugee, Jaber Albakr. It then emerged that the 22-year-old had been radicalized only after he had arrived and been granted asylum in Germany a year earlier.

Migrants and refugees in Germany are prime targets for Islamic fundamentalists and terrorist groups. They can be especially vulnerable to being recruited to radical causes under the guise of assistance. Sometimes these attempts are successful. Four Islamist attacks staged in Germany in 2016 and 2017 were committed by asylum seekers.

It’s the job of the Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz (BfV), Germany’s domestic spy agency, to identify these extremist groups, and they are calling on refugees themselves to help – both for their own sakes and to protect democracy and national security.Bundesamt fr Verfassungsschutz

The BfV has produced a leaflet for refugees in Germany, "How can I identify extremists and members of foreign secret services within my environment?". The leaflet contains the most important information migrants and refugees need to know about the risks of attempts to radicalize them.

It identifies major "current threats" posed by:

• Islamists and terrorists trying to win refugees over to their ideologies under the guise of humanitarian aid

• Potential attackers disguised as refugees, who are smuggled to Europe by foreign jihadist organizations, and

• Foreign secret service agents trying to recruit, spy on, threaten or blackmail refugees.

The activities of these extremists are “not only a threat to your and your families’ safety but may also destroy your chance of finding shelter in Germany,” the BfV warns.

Islamist threats

The leaflet includes information about how to identify Islamist extremists, and explains some of the ideologies of the major groups. It lists some examples of Islamist organizations and groups active in Germany, such as the Salafists (also known as Wahhabists). Salafists have been especially active in trying to make contact with refugees in Germany

Knowing when help is genuine

There are lots of organizations that offer genuine help to refugees, including spiritual care, food and clothing donations and interpreters. It can be hard to distinguish this from alleged aid offered by Islamists. Some of the telltale signs of support from extremists include: 

• Discussions about "true" and "wrong" religious views

• Religious material showing extremist symbols (shown in the BfV leaflet), and

• Efforts to draw your attention to specific mosques and encouragement to visit them.

Violent groups

German authorities have received intelligence about suspected members of extremely violent jihadist groups intending to enter the country. They say these groups use the refugee routes to Germany to move without being recognized and to carry out terrorist attacks. Warning signs include, for example, displaying the flag of Hamas, Hezbollah, the Taliban, or other terrorist organizations, pledging loyalty to the leader of a group like "Islamic State" or Al Qaeda, or aggressively disapproving of western "interference" in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan or Palestine.

Kurdish extremists

People who are linked to the Kurdish Workers’ Party, PKK (banned in Germany), and its Syrian branch, the Democratic Union Party, are also on the BfV watch-list. PKK and its affiliated organizations in Germany try to recruit supporters here, often from among refugees of Kurdish origin, the agency says. Kurdish extremists use tactics similar to Islamists, offering help ranging from donations of food and clothes to support in dealing with authorities.

Kurdish extremists make an effort to subtly convince others of their ideas and motives by gradually developing personal sympathies.
_ Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz
Around 900 people from Germany had been recruited by IS to join the fight in Syria and Iraq, the former head of the BfV, Hans-Georg Maasen said in 2017. About a fifth of those radicalized were women, some as young as 13 or 14 years old. Maasen said German authorities were monitoring almost 550 Islamists deemed to be a security threat.

Foreign spies

Refugees and migrants living in Germany should also be on the lookout for members of foreign secret services who may target them, the BfV says. Be alert to things like: 

• A conspicuous interest in your political opinions

• Efforts to threaten or intimidate you by, for example, discussing your family’s situation in your home country, and

• Extremely friendly, polite and obliging behavior, including offering financial favors. 

What should you do?

If you come across someone who might have extremist or terrorist links, or you notice activities in a refugee accommodation center by extremist individuals or groups, you should contact the manager of the center, the nearest police station, or the Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz.

Phone: 0221/792-0


Alert hotline for Islamist terrorism:

Phone: 0221/792-3366 (German, English, Turkish, Arabic)


•••• ➤ Also read: Number of Salafists in Germany reaches record high

•••• ➤ Also read: Germany faces self-radicalization among frustrated young refugees


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