Germany's intelligence head said Sunday that his state, like the UK, France and other western nations, faces a very high danger of citizens returning to conduct terror attacks from Syria and Iraq, where they are fighting in the ranks of the extremist Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS).
"We have to expect that these people will return and commit attacks here," acknowledged Hans-Georg Maassen, head of Germany's BfV domestic intelligence agency. He cited a "greater abstract risk" of attacks in Germany, reports Reuters.
BfV estimates that no fewer than 400 German citizens have joined the bloodthirsty IS as it conquers large swathes of Iraq and Syria; in recent months Maassen said evidence has been received that five German citizens or residents conducted suicide attacks in the region.
That number does not seem likely to go down, as BfV further estimates that roughly 43,000 Islamists currently reside in Germany, with members of the Salafist movement particularly gaining strength.
"There is a link between the successes IS has had so far in Iraq and the activities here in Germany and the propaganda and canvassing activities aimed at young jihadists," said Maassen.
An example of German propaganda was seen as early as last November, when a German Muslim convert in Syria fighting for ISIS released a video in German calling for his countrymen to join in jihad.
The intel chief added "the Islamic State is, so to speak, the 'in' thing - much more attractive than the Nusra Front, the Al Qaeda spin-off in Syria."
"What attracts people is the intense brutality, the radicalism and rigor. That suggests to them that it is a more authentic organization even than Al Qaeda," said Maassen. "Al Qaeda fades besides the Islamic State when it comes to brutality."
IS has carried out numerous bloody executions, including the recent beheading of US journalist James Foley by a British IS terrorist. Likewise it has conducted large-scale massacres and systematic rape, particularly against Yazidi minorities, drawing concerns of an impending genocide.
In response to the appalling security threat IS recruitment in Germany poses, German Chancellor Angela Merkel called for a vote on Sunday to send military aid to Kurdish forces battling IS in northern Iraq. The German opposition has called for a debate in parliament, which is slated for Monday.