- Interior minister says terror threat in Germany remains ‘high’
- Chancellor pursues new measures as her approval rating plunges
German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government will introduce measures to bolster security after a spate of attacks last month, two of which were linked with Islamic State, raised anxieties over terrorism.
“We’re living in difficult times -- the threat of terror is high,” Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere told reporters on Wednesday during a visit to a police headquarters in the city of Bremen in northwestern Germany. He said he’ll unveil his plans on Thursday in Berlin.
The proposals include expedited deportation processes for asylum seekers accused of criminal activity and loosening doctor-patient privacy privileges in cases where medical officials are able to tip off authorities to a possible attack, Bild newspaper reported.
The series of attacks within one week in July -- a shooting spree in Munich that killed 10, a bomber who blew himself up outside a music festival, an ax-attacker on a commuter train, and a machete assault -- left Germany reeling. The assaults triggered a debate about public security and revived criticism of Merkel’s open-door refugee policy after revelations that three of the attackers were asylum seekers.
Merkel, who broke off her vacation to address reporters after the assaults, stood by her insistence that Germany has a moral and legal obligation to take in asylum seekers, while vowing action against those who commit terrorist acts. The chancellor said then that her government would implement new measures, including lowering the barrier to deport migrants who don’t qualify for asylum and creating an “early warning system” to detect potential radicalization among migrants.
Two-thirds of Germans oppose the chancellor’s handling of the refugee crisis, according to an Infratest dimap poll for ARD public television published last week. Merkel’s approval rating in the survey slumped 12 percentage points to 47 percent.
De Maiziere’s plans coincided with raids conducted Wednesday in the western German states of North Rhine-Westphalia and Lower Saxony as part of an investigation of three suspects who may be linked to Islamic State, according to Deutsche Presse-Agentur.
Two of the July attackers, who authorities said had pledged allegiance to Islamic State, injured others before being killed -- a 27-year-old Syrian refugee who blew himself up in the Bavarian town of Ansbach and a 17-year-old asylum seeker from Afghanistan who was killed by police after the ax attack on a train near Wuerzburg in Bavaria.
The bloodiest incident, the shooting spree in Munich on July 22 that killed 10 people including the shooter, was committed by a teenage assailant who was born and raised in the city. The 18-year-old son of Iranian parents had harbored a fascination with mass shootings, including the murder of 77 people by right-wing terrorist Anders Behring Breivik in Norway in 2011, police said.