On March 11, 2004, terrorists sharing Al-Qaeda’s ideology attacked Madrid, Spain, three days before their elections, helping to usher in a victory by the socialist candidate opposing the Iraq War, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero. In the coming weeks, Al-Qaeda is intent on repeating that success in Germany.
The terrorist organization says it is planning an attack around the time of the September 27 elections, warning German voters that they will pay a price if a party that wants to keep German soldiers in Afghanistan is chosen. On September 18, Al-Qaeda released a videotape warning the German people of a forthcoming attack if the elections did not produce a victory for a party that will withdraw its 4,200 soldiers from Afghanistan, causing the authorities to raise their alert status. The London Times reports that this is the fourth Al-Qaeda video in a row that says an attack on Germany is near.
The videotape featured Bekkay Harrach, a German citizen who joined Al-Qaeda’s ranks and goes by the name of “Abu Talha.” He was injured battling Israeli forces in the West Bank in 2003, and then took two trips to Iraq in an attempt to become one of the “foreign fighters” waging war against Coalition and Iraqi forces. After dropping out of school in 2004, he was recruited by Al-Qaeda in Bonn, and made his way to Iran via Turkey in 2007. There, Harrach met with a smuggler who facilitated his arrival in Waziristan in mid-March, where he was trained by a senior Al-Qaeda leader. He is currently being protected by Siraj Haqqani, a pro-Taliban warlord, who openly admits how he values the advice of Harrach.
"…If the people decide for the continuation of the war, it has delivered its own verdict… If the German people want to live in security again, it has the opportunity now,” he says
on the tape, where he strangely appears clean-shaven and wearing a suit and tie. Harrach also hints at a possible timeframe for an attack, warning Muslims to “stay away from anything that isn’t vital for the two weeks after the elections.”
This video was released shortly after the Institute of Terrorism Research and Response intercepted a message sent by someone reported as “close to Al-Qaeda” that predicted an attack on Germany in the coming weeks, saying “[the] next strike is very near, a strike that will surprise everyone in its effect, which will be much more shocking than that of 9/11/2001.”
Western intelligence agencies have been picking up signs of a brewing Al-Qaeda plot against Germany throughout 2009. The German newspaper, Der Spiegel reported in June that U.S. intelligence believed that Al-Qaeda had outsourced the plan to attack Germany to one of its affiliates called Al-Qaeda of the Islamic Maghreb, previously known as the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat, which has been focused primarily on fighting the government of Algeria.
This isn’t the first time we’ve heard from Harrach. He also threatened Germany in a video recorded in October 2008 where he was shown with his face hidden behind a turban. He was also in a videotape released on February 26 that criticized capitalism and said Islam was the answer to the world’s financial crisis.
The increased “chatter” by suspected terrorists and extremists and the increased emphasis on Germany in such videotapes prompted the Interior Ministry to state that the country had “become a special focus for al Qaeda.” A recently-leaked report by the Federal Criminal Agency also warned that “After the U.S., Germany is only the second country whose population is being addressed so directly and in the national language.” Germany has also been the target of numerous other threats.
In January, a video was posted on YouTube that said Germany and four other countries were going to be targeted beginning the following month. The video contained text that mentioned Berlin, Cologne and Bremen as targets. However, the video did not contain the religious language usually used in videos released by Al-Qaeda and other radical Islamic terrorist groups.
On January 27, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, which has been tied to Al-Qaeda, posted a videotape on the Internet which showed German Muslims that had been recruited to fight their own country’s military forces in Afghanistan. The videotape hailed them as an example, and called on Muslims living in Germany to follow their example. A similar video was released on April 11.
The terrorist groups have a significant pool of German recruits to use for their plots. August Hanning, Germany’s State Secretary at the Interior Ministry and former head of their BND intelligence service, says that about 140 German residents have been trained in the terrorist camps along the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, 60 to 80 of which have returned to the country. He also said that there are another 300 “potentially dangerous Islamists” in Germany, resulting in a “circle of around 1,000 people.”
By warning Muslims in Germany to avoid public places in the two weeks after the September 27 elections, Harrach has put the credibility of himself and Al-Qaeda on the line. Al-Qaeda must attack Germany, or at the very least, launch an attack that is foiled but nonetheless creates immense panic and fear. The German security services are about to be tested.