The XX Committee

Russians and Jihadists: What German domestic intelligence worries about

Recently Hans-Georg Maassen, the chief of the mouthful Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution – BfV for short, i.e. Germany’s domestic intelligence agency, charged with fighting espionage and terrorism – admitted that, thanks to the Ukraine crisis, “efforts by Russian intelligence services to collect information on potential political, economic, and military consequences” in Germany were demonstrably on the rise. 

Much of the targeting by both the Russian foreign intelligence agencies, the civilian SVR and the military’s GRU, is aimed at trying to learn about “the assessment of Russia’s Ukraine policy by Germany, the EU, and NATO, as well as potential countermeasures,” yet through it all, energy policy remains of particular interest to Kremlin spymasters. Moreover, although Maassen was reluctant to provide details, the report noted, “apart from the mere collection of information, Russian intelligence services also make efforts to influence opinion in Germany.”

As if this rising threat were not enough for the BfV to fret about, there’s the increasingly worrisome matter of Germans waging jihad in Syria (and also now Iraq). They are a “considerable risk,” Maassen said, particularly in light of the recent attack on a Jewish museum in Brussels by a recently returned French jihadist from Syria, which has awakened German security officials to the seriousness of this threat.

According to the BfV, at least twenty-five German Islamists have lost their lives in the conflict between jihadists and the Assad regime, while more than 320 jihadists from Germany have left the country for Syria since the outbreak of the conflict. So far, some 100 have returned, “more than a dozen of whom have combat experience.”

The BfV will be busy for some time yet …. watch this space for updates.

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