Islamic Jihad Union fighters in Waziristan
The emergence of several videos in German in recent days, threatening an al-Qaeda attack on the country unless it withdraws its 4,000 soldiers from Afghanistan, may well be linked to this Sunday's national election. It would not be the first time al-Qaeda has attempted to influence the outcome of a European election, having done the same in Spain in 2005.
The videos have been appearing since January this year, with several of them fronted by a young Moroccan-born German called Bekkay Harrach. In the January video he threatens attacks on Berlin, Cologne and Bremen. Its release followed a bomb attack on the German Embassy in Kabul that killed two Afghans and wounded several German and American nationals.
There is little doubt that Germany, which hosted many of the 9/11 hijackers as they planned their attacks on America, has a problem with Islamist extremists. The German government is presently trying to secure the release of a group of suspected German terrorists arrested by the Pakistani authorities as they made their way to a German jihadi colony in Waziristan.
According to a report in Der Spiegel magazine entire families are moving from Germany to ‘mujahideen villages’ in Pakistan's Tribal Areas, from where they take part in attacks on US and Afghan troops.
The magazine refers to a 30-minute video produced by the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, in which a young speaker called Abu Adam invites other Germans to join him in Pakistan: "Doesn't it appeal to you? We warmly invite you to join us!" Abu Adam says, raising his index finger. He lists all the things this earthly paradise has to offer: hospitals, doctors, pharmacies as well as a daycare center and school -- all, of course, "a long way from the front"."
German security officials believe that the IMU is the largest and most active Islamic group recruiting in the country. What is significant is the fact that they appear to be recruiting not just men, but entire families.
For several weeks, German diplomats have been discussing with Islamabad the fate of a group of suspected terrorists from Germany’s Rhineland region, who have been held in custody in Pakistan since May. The group includes a young Tunisian and six Germans, including Andreas M of Bonn, a Muslim convert, and his Eritrean wife Kerya and four-year-old daughter.
The group, which the magazine said apparently met each other in a Bonn prayer room, left Germany in several small groups in March and April. “They travelled through Turkey to the Iranian city of Zahedan. Located close to the border with Pakistan, Zahedan is notorious for its jihad tourism — hotels even set aside entire room allotments for radical foreigners making their way to the city,” Der Spiegel said.
“From Zahedan, most take taxis to Pakistan. For the group of Germans, though, that’s where the problems started. After crossing the border, the Germans were captured by police and taken to a jail in Peshawar.”
Initially they all claimed they were from Turkey and had lost their papers. Only in August did the ISI find out they were Germans.
Security officials believe that the goal of Abu Adam and the IMU was to strengthen the German “colony” in Waziristan. The detainees also include his brother-in-law, the German-Libyan Ahmed K.
It is well known that the IMU has a strong base in North Waziristan, particularly around the town of Mir Ali. One recent report suggested that there were at least 5,000 Uzbeks living in the region. Many are known to have joined Afghan Taliban fighters in Helmand to fight the British and American forces.
One group of German Islamists, known as the Sauerland Cell, was trained in Waziristan to carry out attacks on US soldiers stationed in German They were affiliated to an Uzbek group called the Islamic Jihad Union, also based in the Mir Ali region. Members of the cell have been on trial in Dusseldorf since May this year following their arrest in September 2007. The leader of the IJU, Najmiddin Kamolitdinovic Jalolov, was reportedly killed five days ago in a US drone missile strike.
In addition to the Sauerland cell, other extremists have been recruited from Germany. Cuneyt Ciftci from the Bavarian town of Ansbach, for example, blew himself up in a suicide attack in Khost in Afghanistan in 2008. Saadullah K. from the state of Hesse died fighting for the IJU during an exchange of gunfire. Two other recruits are presently on trial in Frankfurt. Meanwhile, investigators believe that Eric Breininger from Saarland and German-Lebanese suspect Houssain al-Malla are somewhere in Afghanistan.