BERLIN (Reuters) - German authorities believe Al Qaeda is targeting Germany for possible attacks and that German Islamists have been traveling to Pakistan for “terrorist training”, a top security official told a newspaper.
In a preview of an article appearing on Sunday, Deputy Interior Minister August Hanning said: “The danger that there could be terrorist attacks here is very real.”
“We have many indications that Al Qaeda is targeting Germany and German installations abroad, such as embassies,” Hanning was quoted as telling Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung. “There is a new quality in the threat to Germany.”
Last month German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said authorities needed to increase vigilance due to the possibility that militants might carry out suicide attacks on German soil.
In April the U.S. embassy in Berlin announced it was boosting security at its facilities in Germany in response to what it described as an increased threat of terrorism.
Hanning, a former head of Germany’s BND foreign intelligence agency, also said German Islamists were being trained in Pakistan. Three German Islamists who trained there returned to Germany at the beginning of June, he said.
“We have to assume that the people who returned from Pakistan are planning attacks,” he said. “This is a new, specific threat and is a cause for concern.”
He said the Interior Ministry was aware of 14 Islamists who went to Pakistan, some of whom were still there. He added that Berlin believed that there were more Germans who had gone to “terrorist training camps” in Pakistan.
In recent months Pakistani authorities have detained at least seven German Islamists “who could have been involved in planning attacks”, he said.
“We need to do everything possible to find out who went to Pakistan and was trained there,” Hanning said.
Berlin has also said it believed there may be similar training camps in Afghanistan, where Germany has more than 3,000 troops stationed as part of a NATO peacekeeping force. The Taliban has threatened to step up attacks on German troops.
On Saturday, there were conflicting reports of what happened to two German hostages taken by the Taliban.
A spokesman for Afghanistan’s Taliban movement said it had killed the two after its demands for Germany to withdraw troops and for Kabul to release all Taliban prisoners were ignored.
An Afghan official later said one hostage was still alive but the other had died of a heart attack. The German Foreign Ministry said it had received no independent confirmation.