It was the first time Thomas Haldenwang, president of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, or BfV, had hosted his agency’s traditional symposium, reported DW.
The event on Monday in Berlin was entitled “Mobilization Capability in Political Extremism” — referring to issues beyond Islamic extremists, a group that was almost exclusively the focus of attention in recent years under his controversial predecessor, Hans-Georg Maassen. Haldenwang also put right-wing and left-wing extremists on the agenda.
Despite this shift in focus, Haldenwang neither ignored nor trivialized religiously motivated extremism. People should not be deceived by the fact that the “Islamic State” (IS) has suffered a military defeat in Syria and Iraq, he said. Referring to the Easter attacks in Sri Lanka that left several hundred people dead, Haldenwang added that IS has gone underground as a terrorist organization and said he fears their attacks could inspire potential imitators in other regions of the world.
IS followers in Western Europe have been spreading propaganda — including in Germany. “This propaganda continues to call for attacks on Western targets,” Haldenwang told DW. “Unfortunately, we know of enough Islamic terrorists who are pursuing these plans.” The last — and most serious — such attack in Germany occurred in December 2016, when Anis Amri, a Tunisian national, killed 12 people after driving a truck into a Berlin Christmas market.
The BfV also noted a “new dynamic” among right-wing extremists: They address certain issues to get close to ordinary citizens and poison the atmosphere with propaganda and disinformation. The escalating xenophobic protests after the violent death of a German in the summer of 2018 in the city of Chemnitz is a perfect example, Haldenwang said — the suspects were from Syria and Iraq. Protests went on for days. Boundaries were flouted, Haldenwang said.
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