Terror Fight to Intensify
Terror Fight to Intensify
With terrorism casting a wider shadow of death, Chancellor Gerhard Schröder declared on Thursday that his government would step up efforts to wipe out the threat.
His comments came shortly before TV station n-tv reported that three Moroccans suspected of planning the recent terror attack in Madrid had lived in the Rhine-Main region close to Frankfurt and had been known to the Federal Office of Criminal Investigation as “potentially violent Islamists.“
In a speech to the German parliament in Berlin, Schröder said the effort would include work to toughen regulations on deporting foreigners who are considered to be a danger. “Terror suspects and people who pose a danger to society are not welcome in Germany,“ Schröder said.
The efforts to counter potential threats are already under way. As part of work to create a German immigration law that began in 2001, members of the major opposition parties have also introduced proposals aimed at achieving the goal that the chancellor described on Thursday. Under their proposal, someone could be deported if “facts supported the assumption“ that the person could be involved in violent acts. For example, a foreigner living in Germany would be subject to deportation if he had participated in a terrorist training camp in Afghanistan.
But Schröder warned that extra security measures should not infringe on citizens' rights. “There can be no citizens' rights without security. But there can be no security without citizens' rights,“ he said.
The issue of terrorism has been on Schröder's mind all week. On Tuesday, he got a surprise call from U.S. President George W. Bush to discuss the security situation in Germany following the March 11 bombings in Madrid. The two leaders agreed that the United States and Europe must work together to combat terrorism.
Later in the evening, the country's president, Johannes Rau, decided to prematurely end his trip to Africa after German intelligence officials reported that terrorists planned to kill the Social Democrat in Djibouti. Once he was safely back in Germany on Wednesday, Rau stressed that the threat of terrorism should not interfere with people's lives. “We can't counter terrorism in a way that makes us incapable of action,“ he said.
Rau had planned to visit German service members supporting a U.S.-led mission that is designed to stop terrorists from using the waters off the Horn of Africa. The daily Süddeutsche Zeitung reported that intelligence officials had received information indicating that terrorists would be among Rau's African security guards.
Officials would provide little information about the identities of the potential terrorists. A government spokesman, Thomas Steg, was asked on Wednesday whether Al Qaeda were involved in the plan. In response, he would only say, “I intentionally mentioned Islamic groups.“
Despite the cancellation of the visit, officials said the threat level in Germany itself had not increased.
Schröder's focus on terrorism was to continue late Thursday, when EU leaders were scheduled to convene in Brussels for a two-day summit. Among other things, they planned to discuss the creation of an anti-terror coordinator and the exchange of national intelligence.