Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Germany's Young Turks: Vulnerable to Extremists? ; Concern Grows after the Arrest Last Week of a Couple Who Allegedly Plotted to Plant a Bomb on a US Base

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Germany's Young Turks: Vulnerable to Extremists? ; Concern Grows after the Arrest Last Week of a Couple Who Allegedly Plotted to Plant a Bomb on a US Base

Article excerpt

As Germany continues its crackdown on Islamic extremists a year into the global war against terror, it is taking a closer look at its Turkish minority.

Opinions differ on how susceptible disaffected Turkish youth may be to the ideas driving Arab suicide bombers. But there are fears that a rising acceptance of Islamic fundamentalism in Turkey - and Muslim anger over a potential US attack on Iraq - could be spilling over into the community of some 3 million Turks in Germany.

The concern grew after the arrest of a young couple in Heidelberg last week. Osman Petmezci, a German citizen of Turkish background, and his fiancee, Astrid Eyzaguirre, who was born in Germany to an American father and a Turkish mother, were arrested on suspicion of planning to blow up a supermarket on the US Army base in Heidelberg. Police found 287 pounds of chemicals for making explosives, five pipe bombs and a picture of Osama bin Laden in their apartment.

A local politician said there is evidence that the couple "hated Americans and Jews," but authorities have found no evidence linking them to a wider terrorist network. The arrest marks the first time that a German Turk has been directly linked to a planned act of terrorism in Germany.

Guenter Beckstein, a Bavarian state official who could become interior minister after federal elections on Sept 22, is calling for toughening immigration laws to allow deportation of foreigners who are merely suspected of sympathizing with terrorism. One example he cited recently is the case of a Turkish man who wanted to name his son Osama Bin Laden. Cologne officials would not allow the family to register the name. Mr. Beckstein said the attempt shows that the man does not share values reflected in the German Constitution. "The residence [in Germany] of someone like that should be ended," Mr. Beckstein said.

In the weeks before the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, German police launched raids in Hamburg, where several of the alleged pilots had lived before the hijackings. On what turned out to be an erroneous tip, police on Wednesday searched a mosque suspected of being linked to a planned bombing. On Tuesday, police detained a German-Syrian owner of an import-export firm along with his wife and two sons. The four are suspected of belonging to a terrorist organization.

Since Sept 11, Germany has passed a package of laws giving police more powers to hunt down terrorists and ban militant groups.

Germany's domestic intelligence agency, the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, estimates that there are 59,100 foreigners who belong to 65 potentially extremist organizations. The largest single ethnic group in this statistic is 40,600 Turks, most of whom belong to Islamic groups. There are also Turkish nationalist organizations and left-wing extremist groups. …

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