Police in Germany are failing to tackle organised crime because they are using too many of their resources to address the threat posed by Islamist extremists, a senior officer from the elite Mobile Einsatzkommando (MEK) law enforcement agency has claimed.
A wave of jihadi attacks across the country over the summer has left German authorities severely stretched, resulting in a situation where criminal gangs are able to operate with near-impunity, the officer said.
The MEK, which is responsible for tackling serious and organised crime in Germany, has been forced to assign growing numbers of its officers to the extremist threat, particularly in large cities such as Berlin and Bremen, where the agency is having to monitor a growing number of suspected radicals.
In Berlin alone, the MEK is currently surveilling 74 individuals suspected of having links to extremist organisations, a number that has risen by ten in the last six months. Although the agency has not revealed how many officers it uses to keep tabs on suspects, spy chiefs in the UK have suggested they might use as many as 18 to monitor just one alleged extremist over a 24-hour period.
According to the MEK officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity, the situation has left gangsters rubbing their hands with glee, as they feel the pressure on them has eased as police concentrate on potential jihadis.
Despite the increased focus on Islamists who might be planning some form of attack, State Criminal Investigation Department boss Norbert Cioma claims boosting surveillance of these suspects yields few results. “We know where they eat, where they buy their daily newspaper, and watch them go to mosque, but have no idea what they do there and with whom they share what messages,” he said.
Separately, Daesh has launched a propaganda campaign to recruit criminal gang members across Europe, distributing a poster that suggests they can find redemption by pursing jihad. Distributed on social media, the poster features an image of a man dressed in black with an AK-47 resting on his shoulders. It features the tagline: “Sometimes people with the worst pasts create the best futures.”
According to research from the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence at King’s College London, nearly 60% of European jihadis have spent time in jail. Some of the extremists who took part in both the Charlie Hebdo and Paris attacks last year were known to have links to criminality.
“Young Muslim men with a history of social and criminal delinquency are joining up with the Islamic State as part of a sort of ‘super-gang’,” Alain Grignard, a senior member of Belgium’s counter-terror agency, told the Combating Terrorism Centre last year.