Our Canadian correspondent Rembrandt Clancy has translated a video report from German TV about “Germans” who have traveled to wage jihad in Syria and risen high in the ranks of ISIS. He includes his own explanatory introduction.
by Rembrandt Clancy
War of the ISIS Terrorists: Does a Leading Jihadist Come from Germany?
Below is a video documentary of 17 June 2014 by report München, part of the consortium of Germany’s public broadcasters (ARD). It is called “War of the ISIS Terrorists: Does a Leading Jihadist Come from Germany?”. It presents evidence suggesting that a German convert to Islam, perhaps even more than one, is operating at the highest leadership levels in ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria). Other members of the ARD consortium, Hessischer Rundfunk (HR) and SWR (Südwestrundfunk), also participated in the project as is documented in the video.
While notice of the presence of a German convert in the higher echelons of ISIS is new, readers are well aware of the broad implications. However, Rainer Wendt, the head of Germany’s Police Union, provides some specific background to the German context as the Frankfurter Allegemeine reports (03 June 2014):
Union chief Rainer Wendt starts from the assumption that around 2,000 potential perpetrators are in Germany. Moreover, hundreds are training in Syria. He is demanding a Europe-wide monitoring of the situation.
After the attack on the Jewish museum in Brussels, the German Police Union warned of an increasing number of potentially violent Islamists in Germany. The chief of the Police Union told the online edition of Handelsblatt: “Their number is rising rapidly, as the so-called Salafist-scene shows, for example, in the Rhineland”. On a number of occasions “these extremists have shown that violence is an integral strategic component in the pursuit of their objectives. Also and especially, they do not respect state institutions and their representatives”.
To his knowledge there are presently several hundred extremists from the Salafist milieu in Syria where they are learning how to kill. “It must be expected that there are more than 2,000 potentially violent Islamists in Germany.”
However he sees resistance against such [Europe-wide, technical monitoring measures]: “Some politicians still believe that their own governmental authorities are the enemy of our democratic order rather than providing our security forces the necessary means for a successful battle against terrorism”, said Wendt by way of criticism.
The last person interviewed in the report München documentary is Guido Steinberg, whom the broadcaster identifies as an Islam researcher who studies the Near East and Islamic terrorism around the world. He has written numerous books and articles on history and politics in the Arabian world. Presently he is with an independent research organisation, German Institute for International and Security Affairs (Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik). On 22 June 2014 he was one of the guests with Günter Jauch on his hour-long political talk show on DasErste.de, (The First) Germany’s national public TV network. The programme is called “Bloody Battlefield: How Dangerous are the Islamist Jihadists? (Blutiger Feldzug — Wie gefährlich sind die islamistischen Gotteskrieger?). Guido Steinberg had the following to say about indications of Germany’s vulnerability to deadly jihadist attacks:
The most concrete indication is the attack in Brussels. That demonstrated that returnees constitute a very concrete danger. For Germany, there are other indicators, first and foremost the number of fighters. In Europe, the Germans make up the third largest contingent after Britain, then France, and they are only slightly ahead of Belgium. It is in these numbers — together with a tendency in German Jihadism toward the building of more structures, new organisations — that I think the greatest danger lies. When four or five years ago people returned from Pakistan, they did not know to whom they could turn here in Europe, or to whom to turn in Germany. Today it is different. Two years ago the Interior Minister banned a small group, Millatu Ibrahim (The Religious Community of Abraham), — and their structures are still active in this country. And it is this combination which I think constitutes the best evidence for this danger, namely, a high readiness by ISIS to attack; a large number of Germans in Syria, above all with ISIS and not with other organisations; plus, new structures in Germany herself. [Blutiger Feltzug: 3:00 min ff]
Guido Steinberg also compares ISIS with Al Qaeda:
Al Qaeda is at least pragmatic and political. The Al Qaeda leadership has been discussing for a long time, since the death of Osama bin Laden, how the organisation can be made relevant again. Under their new leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri from Egypt, there is a completely different line. … He says you [the Al Qaeda members] must integrate into larger insurgency movements as in Syria; you must win the hearts and minds of the people; you must not be conspicuous for violent acts; if you fight, then fight only against the security forces of the regime. … ISIS became, in a manner of speaking, the competitor organisation. And it was already such in the past, from the very time of its founding by the Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. He was killed in 2006 in Iraq, and always represented another line: very brutal attacks, brutal videos of executions, he fought Shiites only because they are Shiites and he had a very goal-directed anti-Israeli strategy. (Blutiger Feltzug: 37:47 min ff.)
Guido Steinberg further explains that the horrific violence which ISIS deliberately documents with video on the Internet succeeds in achieving two purposes:
Firstly they naturally wish to terrorise their enemies, for which reason we use the word “terrorist”. And they excite fear; they are successful with it, even in Iraq during this advance. We have seen some images from pre-distributed videos. They played an important role. They are one of the reasons why the soldiers threw away their weapons. The second reason for this propaganda offensive is to win recruits. That too is successful. Precisely these videos have called up a veritable storm of enthusiasm on Twitter and Facebook, and probably the next wave of recruits will involve not only the Arabian world, but also Europe. (Blutiger Feltzug: 39:10 min. ff)
The German Interior Minister, Thomas de Maizière is quoted as saying:
“There is a concrete, deadly danger from attacks by returning German Islamists.” [Quoted by Günter Jauch, in his ARD programme “Blutiger Feldzug…” 01.13 min.]
The subtitled ARD video, 17 June 2014:
Moderator: War holds sway, in Iraq and the name “ISIS” comes up more and more, a name which represents the most ferocious of the Islamist armies. It is marching, together with its allies, toward Bagdad. And we have evidence which carries dreadful implications. A German from Munich is reportedly occupying a leadership position in ISIS.
Our reporter, Ahmet Senyurt, has managed to bring an insider of ISIS before the camera.
Ahmet Senyurt, Reporter: They are young, and often German. They fight and die for ISIS. ISIS represents what is likely the most brutal and dangerous Islamist militia in Syria and Iraq. Until now it has been well-known that ISIS fighters from Germany were being deployed for guard duty and at the front. This information appears to be superseded.
According to the investigations of report München, Hessischer Rundfunk (HR), and SWR, (Südwestrundfunk) jihadists from Germany can pursue a career with ISIS right up to the senior ranks; a completely new dimension of radicalisation of Islamists from Germany.
We are on a search for evidentiary traces. It begins in the Kurdish-Syrian city of Qamishli. The Kurds regularly exchange prisoners with ISIS. Our contacts on location report of a German, who as emir, meaning “commander”, conducts negotiations for ISIS. This information is new. Now we are making inquiries with the rebels of the Free Syrian Army [FSA]. They too have prisoners from ISIS.
Abu Yassin grew up in Germany and now resides in the Near East. We are conducting the interview via Skype: he knows the German commander, called an “emir” in Arabic.
Abu Yassin: Free Syrian Army: He is an emir with ISIS and he engages in media relations with the aim of recruiting more people from the European region.
Reporter: Do you know his real name?
Abu Yassin: Free Syrian Army: I don’t know his real name; only that he is called Alexander and that he comes from Munich; unfortunately I know nothing more.
Reporter: What is the basis of your information?
Abu Yassin: Free Syrian Army: We have ISIS prisoners, and we get the information from them.
Reporter: Are there Germans among the prisoners?
Abu Yassin: Free Syrian Army: Yes, there are.
Reporter: We want to corroborate if the statements about this “Alexander” from “Munich” are correct, but no comment from German security authorities.
Our research shows the following: there is an “Alexander” from Munich; he calls himself Abdulla al Almani and is best known to the authorities as an operating partner of a banned Islamist website.
Is Abdulla al Almani from Munich the ISIS commander in Syria?
We ask the Bundestag representative Jan van Aken. At the beginning of the year he met with politicians and security personnel in the Kurdish-Syrian city of Qamishli. He too was in receipt of a report of a German Islamist who is leader of ISIS.
Jan van Aken: The chief of security of the Qamishli region told us that he has met many times in recent years the jihadist commanders, among them a German with a long, blond, full beard, who was very high up in the ranks: a so-called emir, commander of an entire region, who himself spoke no Arabic — it had to be translated.
He [regional security chief] met him [the German emir] at a prisoner exchange, where the Kurds and the jihadists exchanged prisoners.
Reporter: Yet again, an indicator of a ranking German in ISIS; however, the colour of his beard does not match that of the Alexander from Munich. Is it mistaken identity or are there several ISIS commanders from Germany? ISIS mobilisation is increasing, because their fighters are well-paid and they appear to offer professional leadership-level prospects.
“There is method there,” declares an ISIS sympathiser who speaks openly before the camera. We meet him near the Turkish-Syrian border.
Jamil Sahib, ISIS sympathiser: At the foundation of the movement, a kind of Bureau of Statistics was set up. It attempts to work out from whence the foreigners are to come and what training they have. The goal is to find out how high the potential for foreign fighters is in each country. The fact is: most who come into the movement have an academic background.
Reporter: An ISIS commander from Germany apparently organises the exchange of prisoners with Kurds. Given the current trend in Syria and Iraq — what meaning can all that have for us in Germany?
Guido Steinberg, Near East Expert: I think an increased danger of attack is to be expected; to be sure, based on the events in Brussels. There we had the case of a returnee from Syria who had been with ISIS and probably travelled, with the official order of the organisation, to carry out attacks in Brussels.
Reporter: The authorities are alarmed: in Germany recently, several returnees from Syria have been arrested.