Overview: The threat from violent extremism increased in 2015 in connection with the threat posed by domestic radical groups as well as foreign terrorist fighters. Germany investigated, arrested, and prosecuted a sharply increased number of terrorist suspects and disrupted terrorist-related groups within its borders, many of whom were connected to al-Qa'ida (AQ), the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), other violent Islamist extremists, Kurdish nationalists, and neo-Nazi terrorist organizations. Security officials estimated more than 760 residents of Germany have departed the country to participate in the conflicts in Syria and Iraq, the majority of which joined violent Islamist extremist groups in the fighting there. One hundred are estimated to have died there. A third of the group, roughly 250, has returned to Germany. German officials actively investigated these returnees for any terrorist threat resulting from their experience abroad and possible desire to continue to support violent extremist causes. Bilateral counterterrorism cooperation with the United States remained excellent.

Germany is a member of the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL and has provided arms, material support, and training to Kurdish security forces; reconnaissance aircraft, satellite data, and refueling aircraft to support Coalition air operations; and a frigate to defend a French aircraft carrier from which Coalition air operations are launched. Germany implemented UN Security Council Resolutions (UNSCRs) 2178 and 2199, and obligations under the UN 1267/1989/2253 ISIL (Da'esh) and al-Qa'ida sanctions regime, through legislative amendments to specifically criminalize terrorism finance and foreign terrorist fighter travel, sharpening previous antiterrorism legislation. Germany is a founding member of the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF) and supported the GCTF good practices on foreign terrorist fighters. Domestically, the German government has increased enforcement efforts to prevent, interdict, and counter foreign terrorist fighter travel and has voiced support for strengthening EU and Schengen measures to do so. German security officials actively made use of existing provisions allowing them to seize passports of those deemed to pose a security risk and implemented similar legislation for national identification cards. In November, the Bundestag (parliament) approved a 2015 budget that included increased spending on law enforcement and domestic intelligence efforts in counterterrorism, including new counterterrorism police response units and increased investigative, prosecutorial, and analytical resources.

Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: The German government continued to apply its comprehensive counterterrorism legislation, which criminalizes membership in or support for domestic and foreign terrorist organizations. The Criminal Code also makes a range of terrorism-related preparatory actions illegal, such as participating in terrorist training or acquiring weapons or explosives with the intent to commit attacks that endanger the German state. In June, legislation entered into force amending the Criminal Code in two areas to implement UNSCR 2178: (1) Departing (or attempting to do so) from Germany with the intention to commit grave acts of violence abroad or to seek training for such acts is now a criminal offense; and (2) The Criminal Code now contains a new separate section specifically criminalizing terrorism financing.

In October, a man was arrested on suspicion of planning to travel to the Syrian-Turkish border to attend a terrorist training camp. This was the first arrest of its kind under the new revisions to the Criminal Code. An additional new law to allow authorities to revoke the national identification (ID) cards of suspected terrorists entered into force on June 30. The amendments to the national ID card law allow cards to be denied or revoked, and substitute ID documents are issued for a maximum of three years that does not permit foreign travel. In December, a new law entered into force requiring telecommunications providers to retain data for the purpose of investigating terrorism and other serious crimes.

Germany generally does not collect entry/exit data and is working towards systematic border checks of arriving and departing EU citizens. Non-EU citizens are systematically checked. At the end of 2015, all arriving/departing passengers' passports will be checked manually against the INTERPOL Lost and Stolen Data Base. Biometric data is not screened at entry, although Germany participates in the EU Smart Border entry/exit and biometric data collection pilot. Data on suspected terrorists is shared between federal and state law enforcement agencies. The German passport and other identity documents incorporate strong security features. Collection and retention of Advance Passenger Information for traveler screening is limited and Passenger Name Record (PNR) analysis is not used. Following the approval of a new EU-wide PNR Directive, Germany began development of a PNR system. Concerns over data privacy played a role in limiting German willingness to expand travel analysis systems.

There were numerous arrests, prosecutions, and trials throughout 2015; the Federal Ministry of Justice estimated at year's end that there were 300 terrorist suspects under active investigation or prosecution. The most prominent cases included:

  • In March, the Federal Ministry of the Interior (MOI) announced that it had banned the organization "Tawhid Germany" and the associated "Team Tawhid Media" as extremist anti-constitutional organizations. Police and security services in the states of Bavaria, Hesse, North Rhine-Westphalia, and Schleswig-Holstein carried out a number of raids and investigative operations on the night of March 25-26 to implement the order.

  • Also in March, the Stuttgart Higher Regional Court sentenced Ismail Issa to four years, six months imprisonment for membership in a foreign terrorist organization "Jaish al-Muhajarin wal-Ansar" (JAMWA). Co-defendants Ezzedine Issa (Ismail's brother) and Mohammad Sobhan A. were sentenced to three years and two years, nine months imprisonment, respectively, for supporting a terrorist group. The court found Ismail Issa guilty of traveling to Syria and participating in combat action in 2013.

  • In June, the Düsseldorf Higher Regional Court sentenced German-Polish dual national Karolina Rafalska to three years and nine months in prison and German Ahmed-Sadiq Munye to one year and nine months parole for providing monetary and material support to ISIL. Rafalska raised a total of US $5,580 to help her husband Fared Saal, a prominent member of ISIL in Syria and a close associate of German-born ISIL fighter Dennis Cuspert. She also sent him video equipment which was used to produce propaganda videos. Munye was sentenced for transferring US $2,400 to Saal.

  • In July, the Berlin Superior Court sentenced Fatih I. (28) to three years and six months imprisonment on two counts of supporting a foreign terrorist organization as well as fraud. The court found he was guilty of having defrauded a bank of US $27,350, of which he transferred US $7,650 to Junud Al Sham in Syria and supplied the group with a four-wheel drive vehicle in 2013. In March 2014, he transferred US $41.695 to ISIK, an ISIL-predecessor organization.

  • In September, the Berlin Superior Court sentenced German citizen Fatih K. to six years imprisonment for membership in the terrorist group "Junud al-Sham." The court found him guilty of traveling to Syria for training and preparing propaganda videos. The court found no evidence that he had participated in combat. He had previously been incarcerated for 22 months for membership in the German Taliban Mujahedin.

  • In October, the trial against eight violent Islamist extremists accused of stealing US $20,758 in a wave of robberies to finance terrorist groups in Syria began in Cologne. The men were arrested in November 2014 after having been active from 2011 to 2014. The men were believed to have received training with ISIL.

  • In October, the Frankfurt Prosecutor's Office indicted an unnamed 35-year-old Turkish-German citizen for planning a bomb attack on charges of preparing an act of violence, forging documents, and violating weapons and explosives laws. He was arrested in April together with his wife, who has since been released, on suspicion they were plotting to carry out an attack at a large scale public event. The couple had bought three liters of hydrogen-peroxide at a hardware store under false identities on March 30. The man also kept a ready-assembled pipe bomb and other weapons and ammunitions in his basement.

  • In December, two returned ISIL fighters Ayoub B. (27) and Ebrahim H. B. (26) were sentenced by the Higher Regional Court of Celle, Lower Saxony, to four years and three months and three years in prison, respectively for membership in a terrorist organization. According to the court, Ayoub and Ebrahim were members of ISIL in Syria between June and August 2014. Ayoub and Ebrahim were able to convince the court that they broke with ISIL, thus receiving a lower sentence. In July 2015, Ebrahim participated in an investigative TV documentary, warning people against joining ISIL.

Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Germany is a member of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), and is an observer to the Eurasian Group on Combating Money Laundering and Terrorism financing, the Asia/Pacific Group on Money Laundering, and the Financial Action Task Force of Latin America, all of which are FATF-style regional bodies. Germany's financial intelligence unit (FIU) is a member of the Egmont Group. In June, based on improvements reflected in the most recent FATF Mutual Evaluation Follow-Up Report, the FATF removed Germany from the Follow-Up process. German agencies filed 25,054 (compared to 19,095 in 2013) suspicious transaction reports in 2014 (the latest figures available). This was the largest annual increase in suspicious transaction reports since 2002, when Germany's FIU was created. Agencies designated 323 entities for suspected terrorism financing, a significant decrease as a share of reports. Germany remained a strong advocate of the UN 1267/1989/2253 ISIL (Da'esh) and al-Qa'ida sanctions regime.

The June amendments to the German Criminal Code implementing UNSCR 2178 also explicitly outlaw terrorism finance in all forms, including the financing of terrorist travel, per the FATF Recommendations.

For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2016 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume II, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes: http://www.state.gov/j/inl/rls/nrcrpt/index.htm.

Countering Violent Extremism: Germany has numerous programs to counter violent extremism at the state and federal levels. The Federal Ministries of Interior and Family Affairs, as well as their state-level counterparts, have formed a working group to ensure coordination and more effective support for efforts to analyze and counter the appeal of violent extremism, which meets regularly to compile and disseminate information and best practices. In November, the Federal Family Ministry increased funding for its "Live Democracy" project, which sponsors a wide range of CVE-related projects at state and local governments as well as via NGOs. Funding from 2015-2018 will total US $54.6 million, of which US $21.8 million is earmarked for CVE projects.

The Federal Ministry of the Interior continued its counter-radicalization assistance center for concerned parents and friends of violent extremists, operated by the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (Bundesamt für Migration und Flüchtlinge, or BAMF). The center was established in January 2012 and has expanded to include a nationwide telephone hotline with clients referred to a region-specific advising partner. In June, the fifth BAMF-funded local anti-radicalization counseling center opened in Bonn, North Rhine-Westphalia. The center, offering counseling for parents and friends of young people who are feared to be radicalizing, is operated by the organization Hayat, which has been a BAMF implementing partner since the program's launch in 2012.

The Federal States of Hesse, Bavaria, and Berlin operated state-level counseling and de-radicalization programs implemented by the NGO "Violence Prevention Network," focused on counseling to families of radicalizing or radicalized individuals and to the individuals themselves. Violence Prevention Network also implemented CVE programs in prisons in these states.

In August, Federal Family Minister Manuela Schwesig and Dilek Kolat, Berlin Senator for Integration, Labor and Women opened a new counseling center "BAHIRA", a cooperative project of the NGO "Violence Prevention Network," the Central Council of Muslims in Germany, and the DITIB-Sehitlik Turkish-Islam Community in Berlin-Neukölln. The center is located at the Sehitlik mosque and aims to carry out events in the mosque to sensitize community members on the issue of violent Islamist extremism, and training employees and community members on how to deal with radicalized persons.

In July, a new de-radicalization program for religious extremism began in Hamburg. The program plans to confront religiously motivated extremism and Salafism in Hamburg, and is aimed at teenagers and young adults who are already religiously radicalized or who may be undergoing radicalization. The Hamburg project is part of a broader, multi-authority initiative to fight the spread of religious extremism in Germany. The Hamburg Ministry for Social Affairs will provide up to US $ 328,000 per year through the end of May 2017.

International and Regional Cooperation: Germany is a founding member of the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF), supported GCTF capacity-building projects, and continued to participate in various multilateral counterterrorism initiatives. German cooperation with regional and international organizations on counterterrorism includes the UN and UN Security Council, EU, OECD, OSCE, NATO, Council of Europe, G-7, the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism, and INTERPOL. Germany is a founding member of the GCTF-inspired International Institute for Justice and the Rule of Law. Germany advocated strongly within the EU for improved counterterrorism and border security efforts. During its G-7 Presidency in 2015, Germany supported coordinated counterterrorism efforts through the Roma-Lyon Group and at the Foreign Ministerial and Leaders' Summit, with a particular focus on the foreign terrorist fighter problem.


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