Dortmund, Germany – Up to three explosions targeting the Borussia Dortmund football team which injured one of its star defenders, Marc Bartra, have links to Islamic terrorism and are being investigated as a terrorist attack according to German authorities. German federal prosecutors are focusing on two suspects with ties to Islamic extremism and the ultra-conservative Salafist movement that is gaining traction in Germany. The homes of the suspects were searched and a 25-year-old Iraqi was detained in the town of Wuppertal just outside of Dortmund after finding text messages on his mobile phone purportedly discussing targeting several German authorities and personalities for death as well as “other Crusader countries.” Another person of interest, a 28-year-old German, was also detained in the town of Fröndeberg in connection to the bombing as well. Both suspects have been registered with the German authorities previously as Islamic State sympathizers.
Three copies of a note left at the scene of the attack have been found by German investigators, in which the suspect or suspects demanded the immediate closure of the Ramstein U.S. Air Force base in Germany, currently supporting the Global War on Terror. Along with the demand that the German military recall their Tornado warplanes conducting reconnaissance flights assisting in designating targets for coalition airstrikes against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. German federal prosecutor spokesperson, Frauke Koehler, explained that investigators were still evaluating the veracity of the note and stated that; “the exact motive for the attack is still unclear,” Koehler also stated that “[A]n Islamic extremist background to the attack appears possible.”
Germany has been dealing with a massive influx of support and followers of an ultra-conservative form of Islam known as Salafism. The Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Religion offers this definition:
Salafism is a branch of Sunni Islam whose modern-day adherents claim to emulate “the pious predecessors” (al-salaf al-ṣāliḥ; often equated with the first three generations of Muslims) as closely and in as many spheres of life as possible. Salafism can be divided into three branches: quietist Salafism, whose adherents shun political activism and concentrate on “cleansing” and teaching Islam in all its “purity”; political Salafism, which does concentrate on political commitment as an integral part of Islam through contentious debates, parliamentary participation, and founding political parties; and Jihadi-Salafism, whose followers seek to overthrow supposedly apostate regimes in the Muslim world through violent jihad.
Many within the German government feel very strongly that due to the massive influx of immigrants from the war-torn parts of the Middle East which has flooded Europe as of late may have brought this brand of conservative Islam to Germany and has been allowed to flourish within the German Muslim communities. Some areas in the Lower Saxony region of Germany have also become recruiting grounds for the Islamic State and many German Muslims have, in fact, left Germany to fight in Iraq and Syria for ISIS. With a third of these fighters returning to their homes in Germany after fighting in the Middle East.
Threats of a terror attack on German soil came to light in April 2016, where a Sikh temple was bombed in Essen, Germany, during a wedding wounding three in the attack. Three teenage boys of Turkish descent were arrested in connection to the bombing. Mohammed B., Yusuf A., and Tolga I. all self-proclaimed Salafists had close ties to the movement and were known radicals according to German authorities who enrolled the teens in a German state-run ‘anti-radicalisation programme,’ known as “Signpost.” The three also belonged to a WhatApp group named “Supporters of the Islamic Caliphate,” whose members were teens of Turkish ethnicity who spread Islamic propaganda and ideas. Mohammed B. had just ‘graduated’ from Signpost a week prior to carrying out the attack on the Sikh temple.
Then in August 2016 operators from the German Special Deployment Commandos, or Spezialeinsatzkommandos (SEK), working on a tip from a prison inmate. Raided the home, then detained a 24-year-old Middle Eastern man in Mutterstadt-Mainz, Germany on suspicion of attempting to plan and conduct a terrorist attack on an unknown football stadium in Germany. The 24-year-old suspect was described by the SEK spokesperson as being a “high-ranking representative of the militant terror group ISIS.” and had close ties to the Salafist movement in Germany known as “The True Religion” which also has deep connections to the Islamic State.
“The True Religion” followers are well-known for their “Read!” campaign where they hand out propaganda on the benefits of converting to Salafist Islam and free Quran’s all over the Lower Saxony region of Germany. Reports began coming out in late 2016 in which some in the German government accused Saudi Arabia of supporting the ultra conservative movement financially through Wahhabist missionary groups known as the Sheikh Eid Bin Mohammad al-Thani Charitable Association and Kuwaiti Revival of Islamic Heritage Society (RIHS). Both of which have been banned in the United States and Russia for supporting al-Qaeda, a claim the Saudi Arabian government vehemently denies.
In November 2016 German Chancellor, Angela Merkel under pressure from the German people and the international community took action and whole-sale banned The True Religion movement from Germany and authorized the SEK commandos to raid up to 200 mosques and homes in 16 different states within Germany to crack down on extremist propaganda and stanch the recruitment efforts of the Islamic State. This was met with rage in the Salafist community as they interpreted this as an attack on Islam and a ban on their faith as a whole. The SEK specifically targeted an exceptionally fiery orator of Salafism, 32-year-old Ahmed Abdulaziz Abdullah also known as “the preacher without a face.” Abdullah who is called Abu Walaa gets the nom de guerre “preacher without a face” due to him covering himself from head to toe in black robes in the all of his video sermons. For up to two years German authorities had been aware of Walaa’s conservative extremism and abject support of both the Islamic State and its caliphate. Then, just weeks later, Anis Amri, a failed asylum seeker from Tunisia drove a stolen semi-truck into a crowded Christmas market in Breitscheidplatz just west of Berlin.
As Germany reels from yet another terror attack, German authorities have made one thing very clear. They will investigate this to the fullest and will find whoever is responsible. It remains to be seen just how far this Salafist movement has gone inside German borders or how deep its roots have buried themselves into the fabric of Germany, and Europe.
Feature image courtesy of Reuters