German Islamists Pose Risk as Hundreds Join Conflicts

German Islamist fighters returning from conflicts in the Middle East pose an “especially high” security risk, underscoring the potential for violence in Syria and Iraq to spread elsewhere, according to a government report.

About 320 Islamists from within Germany joined the civil war in Syria as of mid-May, the Interior Ministry said in its 2013 threat report today. Fueled by jihadist propaganda, such fighters present an elevated danger in Germany when they go back, according to the report.

“Individuals or those with sustained ties to jihadist groups in Syria could pursue attack plans on their return to Germany,” the ministry said. An unspecified number of fighters are already back in the country, it said.

The threat of Islamist fighters in the Middle East was compounded last week when an al-Qaeda breakaway group captured Iraq’s second-biggest city, Mosul, threatening to re-ignite a sectarian civil war. The group, the Sunni Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, had been active in Syria and was cited by the German report as inspirational in drawing fighters from Europe.

The German report, an annual list detailing threats to the country’s constitutional order, also said violent attacks by anti-immigrant groups on foreigners rose 20 percent last year to 473. Much of the violence targeted an influx of asylum seekers into Germany.

Attacks by “left-wing extremists” climbed 27 percent to 1,110, including a 34 percent increase in assaults on police and security forces. The ministry cited a police operation in Hamburg to clear a squat, which prompted a broader protest and the worst street violence in the port city since the 1980s. More than 160 police officers were injured in the demonstrations.

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