German intelligence fears Salafists re-base in Egypt

BERLIN Fri Aug 10, 2012 12:42pm EDT

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BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany's intelligence service fears that members of a radical Salafist group, banned in the country since June, could establish a new, dangerous German Salafist colony in Egypt, the German daily Die Welt cited security experts as saying.

In Germany, radical Islamist groups are kept under surveillance relatively easily, but the situation abroad is far more complex, a member of the intelligence service told the daily in an article to be published in its Saturday edition.

Germany banned the Millatu Ibrahim Salafist group in June in a crackdown on radical Islamists suspected of plotting against the state. Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich said they worked against the constitutional order.

The intelligence service agent told Die Welt the Islamists might use Egypt only as a transit point, and from there join training camps and take part in armed conflicts elsewhere - or even return to Germany.

A spokesman for the intelligence agency declined to comment on the report.

More than a dozen Salafists have already left Germany for Egypt, Die Welt wrote. Among them were the former rapper Denis Cuspert, known as "Deso Dog" who calls for 'holy war' and praises the late al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

German authorities have recently stepped up their monitoring of Salafist groups following a series of violent clashes with police earlier this year.

The roughly 4,000 Salafists in Germany, whose religious roots are in Saudi Arabia, are only a tiny proportion of the total Muslim population of about four million.

Die Welt quoted security sources as saying Salafists were attracted by the favorable conditions enjoyed by ultra-conservative Islamists in Egypt since President Hosni Mubarak was ousted in 2011.

Egypt's new Islamist president, Mohamed Mursi, recently freed a group of Islamists jailed for militancy during Mubarak's era, a step many see as a gesture to hardliners who supported his presidential bid.

(Reporting By Elisa Oddone, editing by Tim Pearce)

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