In Berlin, Salafist extremist scene nears 1,000 members: report

Berlin's Salafist extremist scene has tripled since 2011, according to a report from Germany's domestic intelligence agency. Russians comprise the largest foreign national group in the scene.

Germany's domestic intelligence agency reported a significant increase in the extremist Salafist scene in Berlin, more than tripling its members since 2011, according to the Berlin-based Der Tagesspiegel newspaper.

Berlin's Salafist extremist scene comprised some 950 people, said a situation report from domestic intelligence, known as the Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV). Those considered "dangerous" – or classified as prone to commit an act of violence – have quadrupled since 2011, comprising 420 people.

Read more: Number of Salafists in Germany reaches record high

At least half of the scene's members are German, of which only a third are dual nationals. Russians represented the largest foreign national group of the extremist scene, according to the BfV report.

Meanwhile, men made up nearly 90 percent of the scene, with an average age of 34 years. The average of age of women in the scene was 33.

While Salafists adhere to a strict interpretation of Islam's sacred texts and traditions, notably emphasizing material displays of faith such as wearing garments above the ankles, not all are considered extremists or politically active.

While not all Salafists are considered extremists, many participate in "Da'wah" – or the "call" – which includes proselytizing

Berlin bolsters counterterrorism strategy

In the wake of the 2016 Christmas market terror attack in Berlin, German authorities have bolstered counterterrorism measures, including efforts to prevent radicalization.

Most notably, Berlin's office of the interior outlawed a mosque association known as "Fussilet 33" last year over alleged links to the "Islamic State" militant group. Authorities believed that the association was used as a meeting point for radical Islamists.

Read more: Growing number of potential Islamist terrorists in Germany, says police chief

Last month, German police launched raids on several properties in Berlin and the German state of Saxony-Anhalt linked to the suspected Berlin Christmas market attacker, Anis Amri, who allegedly visited mosques run by the "Fussilet 33" mosque association.

German authorities have reported that up to 705 Islamists in the country are considered a threat to public safety. However, a report published by Germany's federal police (BKA) last month noted that the number of "dangerous" Islamists was likely half of previously reported figures.

Germany's biggest Islamist trials

Failed Bonn bomb

The blue bag left on the platform at Bonn's central station in 2012 contained explosives that did not go off, but a city-wide manhunt unfolded. Marco G. was eventually arrested and charged with planting the bomb. Three others are charged with plotting to assassinate a politician from the far-right PRO-NRW party. Their group allegedly drew inspration from an Islamist movement in Uzbekistan.

Germany's biggest Islamist trials

Frankfurt airport bus attack

In March 2011, Arid Uka shot dead two US servicemen waiting for a bus at Frankfurt airport prior to deployment in Afghanistan. "This is indeed the first Islamic-motivated terror strike to have happened in Germany," the judge said, adding Uka had sought revenge for military operations in Afghanistan. Uka, born in Kosovo, acted alone and was sentenced to life in prison in February 2012.  

Germany's biggest Islamist trials

The Sauerland Cell

The "Sauerland Cell" was a German cell of the Islamic Jihad Union (IJU), a terrorist group on the Pakistani-Afghan border. The four German and Turkish men had planned large-scale bomb attacks against American targets in Germany from their base in the western region of the Sauerland. Arrested in September 2007, they were sentenced in March 2010 for up to 12 years. 

Germany's biggest Islamist trials

Sharia Police

Sven Lau, a Salafist Muslim, was the man behind a well-known Islamist publicity stunt. In 2014, Lau led several men around the city of Wuppertal in orange security vests labeled "Sharia police." Acting as state authorities, they warned people visiting local clubs and bars to adhere to Sharia, or Islamic law. He is currently on trial for backing a terror group fighting in Syria.

Germany's biggest Islamist trials

Big mouth

Nils D., a Salafist from Dinslaken, joined the "Islamic State" in Syria in October 2013. He tracked down the group's deserters - armed with explosives and guns. He returned to Germany a year later, and boastful statements about his time in Syria eventually got him arrested. He confessed the names of other German Islamic extremists and was sentenced to four-and-a-half years in jail. 

Germany's biggest Islamist trials

"Biggest mistake of my life"

On the final day of Harry S.'s July 2016 trial, he said "going to Syria was the biggest mistake of my life." The Bremen-born Muslim convert spent three months with "Islamic State" in Syria in 2015. He wanted out after civilians were murdered for a short recruitment film he helped make. He was sentenced to three years in jail for being part of a foreign terrorist organization.

ls/kms (dpa, epd)