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Head of German Security Agency: ‘Number of Extremists on the Rise’ | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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President of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, Hans-Georg Maassen, speaks during the 20th European Police Congress in Berlin, Germany, Feb. 22, 2017. AP

Cologne – Head of Germany’s Federal Bureau for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV) Hans-Georg Maassen cautioned Wednesday that the number of extremists in the country is on the rise and that the threat of an attack remains high.

“We are currently counting 1,600 people as potentially belonging to that group,” Maassen said at the European police congress in Berlin.

At the end of 2016, the agency had counted around 1,200 people.

The number of extremists under surveillance who are considered potentially dangerous enough to carry out an attack is currently at 570, according to the agency.

“Every day we get two, sometimes even four concrete leads regarding possible acts,” Maassen said.

“We have to acknowledge that we live in these conditions and no longer in a normal situation.”

The BfV explained that part of the reason for the uptick was the heavy press coverage of terror plots as well as the increased ease in connecting with extremists online.

It also cited an increased danger in young people being radicalized online, saying that then their friends and relatives might not be able to see what is happening.

“These are social groups that find each other, let’s say through their mosque community, and the people who see them in the real world don’t necessarily notice any change in behavior,” according to Maassen.

He said that growing digitization is making Western countries deeply vulnerable to cyber-attacks from spy agencies and propaganda of terrorist groups and warned that cyberspace did not only offer new chances for industrialized countries, but also involved major risks for national security.