To what extent are the different terrorist groups comparable?

To what extent are the different terrorist groups comparable?


After a period of leftist terrorism, Germany suffered the right-wing terrorism that attacked migrants. Then came jihadism. They look alike?

When the terrorist cell Nationalsozialisticher Untergrund (” National Socialist Clandestine”, NSU) was discovered in November 2011, politicians and journalists wondered if this right-wing-inspired group had anything in common with the terrorists of the Rote Armee Fraktion (“Red Army Fraction”). , RAF).

At first sight, it seems a plausible approach, since both the ultra-rightists of the NSU and the leftists of the RAF used violent methods to try to achieve their goal of promoting a new social order, although their respective notions of this ideal could not be more different While the ideology of the NSU was articulated around xenophobia, the terrorists of the RAF were inspired by Marxism. Both, however, came to perform the same type of actions: robberies, bombings, arson attacks and murders.

In a recent event of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation (KAS), linked to the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), important experts analyzed possible parallels between the NSU, the RAF and the Islamic State. Clemens Binninger, who led a parliamentary inquiry into the NSU, and Peter Neumann, an expert at King’s College London, agreed that all terrorist groups rely on a charismatic leader and the support of a broad network.

Mordopfer der NSU (picture-alliance / dpa)Victims of the NSU

These factors are crucial if a terrorist cell wants to spend years undetected. The trio of the NSU formed by Beate Zschäpe, Uwe Böhnhardt and Uwe Mundlos went underground in 1998 and managed to escape the radars until 2011, when Böhnhardt and Mundlos were found dead. That they could spend so much time without being discovered is explained by the failure of the authorities to link these three individuals with the deaths of nine migrants, who were killed using exactly the same gun.

“It is not that the security agencies turned a blind eye to extreme right-wing terrorism, but that their approach was too conventional,” explains Binninger, an expert in the NSU group, which the authorities did not take into account. of a terrorist motivation because nobody took responsibility for the murders.

In this respect, the NSU is very different from the RAF and the EI. The RAF, which in 1998 put an end to the war that it had waged for 28 years against a social order that it so detested, always publicly proclaimed its murders. His most traumatic action was when the group kidnapped business leader Hanns-Martin Schleyer in 1977 and subsequently killed him after having held him captive for six weeks.

Schleyer Entführung 1977 (AFP / Getty Images)The kidnapping and murder of Hanns-Martin Schleyer was the crime of greatest impact of the RAF

NSU: spread fear without assuming authorship of your actions

The jihadist group EI, which at the military level is about to be completely defeated but continues to commit terrorist attacks, also promotes its actions through the publication on the internet of images and videos of decapitated victims. In this sense, the EI and the RAF agree that both claim authorship of their actions. The ultra-right NSU, on the other hand, only did it after being discovered. Despite this, he managed to intimidate massively people with Turkish roots living in Germany.

The RAF Peters expert notes that the members of the NSU went underground in 1998, exactly the same year that the RAF announced its dissolution. The intelligence service report that year indicates that three right-wing terrorist groups had gone underground in the town of Jena, in eastern Germany. But he assumed that they did not pose a threat.

How could he be wrong in that way? And could it be that in the near future other terrorists are detected? In relation to Anis Amri, the author of the terrorist attack on the Christmas market in Berlin in December 2016, Neumann states that the German authorities made a fundamental error in their analysis. Given his activity as a drug dealer, he had been considered a minor offender, rather than a potential terrorist; that despite the fact that there was well-founded evidence that he was planning an attack.

Fahndungsfotos des gesuchten Tunesiers Anis Amri (picture alliance / dpa / A. Dedert)Anis Amri’s research photos

Anis Amri was “able” to have been deported

Binninger believes that security agencies should be alerted as soon as an individual goes underground. The terrorists of the NSU Zschäpe, Böhnhardt and Mundlos adopted false identities and lived in Saxony without even being disturbed. And the Islamist Amri used a large number of aliases while crossing Germany. However, it should be easy to detect and capture someone like him, defends Binninger. And not only that. “If the discoveries of domestic intelligence services and the knowledge of local investigations had been linked, it could easily have been deported.”

Amri was part of a list of potential threats from the German Joint Antiterrorist Center, which brings together the work of national and federal security agencies. Binninger is of the opinion that in this case, as in the case of the NSU, no German authority has assumed its responsibility. Similarly, the specialist in the EI, Neumann, urges to improve anti-terrorist measures of prevention against the threat of violent Salafism. It has also identified a deficit in the sharing of information at the German and European level, “as the case of Amri demonstrated.” In general, Neumann says, “there will still be a jihadist threat within five years.”

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