On Tuesday, the German government discussed concerns that Islamic State could increase its attacks in Europe as it is losing territory in Syria and Iraq. It said that its domestic intelligence agency is bracing to respond to a large-scale assault. Thomas De Maiziere, the Interior Minister, welcomed the improvements made by the US-led coalition against the Islamic State (IS) in Syria and Iraq, but said that they were not reducing the possibility of attacks in Europe. A member of the conservative Christian Democratic party of Angela Merkel, the minister said that they were afraid that the Islamic State will externalize and move its activities to Europe due to its military losses in the region.
According to the head of the BfV domestic intelligence agency, Hans-Georg Maassen, since the attacks of the Islamic State in Paris last November and Brussels in March, Germany has been on high alert for any potential large-scale attacks by militants, which could possibly include military-style weapons. He said that several exercises had been carried out by the agency to respond to any such events and they had already succeeded in thwarting a number of these attacks. Earlier this month, three Syrian men had been suspected of planning a large scale military attack in Dusseldorf.
He also said that the agency was on guard for lone-wolf attacks as well, which include self-radicalized individuals and also possible militants who may have been smuggled into the country under the cover of about one million Muslim refugees that have been granted asylum in Germany in the last year. Maassen said that clear evidence had been identified by the authorities against 17 people who had come into the country disguised as refugees and most had either been arrested or are dead. He said that they have to keep a very close eye on these people.
Authorities have received tips about 400 potential Islamic State militants amongst the refugees and they are checking them out. However, a large number of them have just turned out to be false claims made by other refugees. De Maiziere said that the number of people leaving Germany to become part of the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq had slowed down, but is still troublesome. It is believed that approximately 820 people have left Germany for the area, which is higher than 780 people in December. It was also estimated that one-third of these people returned.
60 of those who had departed were under the age of 18 and 20 of the ones who had succeeded were actually females. At the same time, there has also been a sharp rise in the number of Salafists in Germany in recent years, who are ultra-conservative Islamists. German officials said that the number of sympathizers had been 7,000 at the end of 2014, but had increased to 8,900. De Maiziere said that it was essential for them to reintegrate the foreign fighters who have returned to Germany as some of them are quite disillusioned whereas others are highly radicalized.