The German federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia is one of the strongholds of the Islamic State (IS) terrorist group

It was 29 March 2019 when a 19-year-old man sped across the city centre of Essen (North Rhine-Westphalia) in his Opel car on that Friday morning. The police had been searching for the man with Tajik roots with a large contingent; he had been noticed for his “suspicious driving”. He was caught and arrested.

A few days later, there were large-scale raids in ten cities in North Rhine-Westphalia and Baden-Württemberg – eleven men, nine of them with Tajik roots, were arrested. The suspicion was that they all belonged to an ISIS terror cell planning terrorist attacks in Germany.

In April 2020, the next successful police investigation: special police forces once again uncovered an ISIS terror cell. This time, four Tajiks from North Rhine-Westphalia, aged 24 to 32, were arrested. Their leader has already been in custody since March 15, 2019 for illegal ownership of weapons. Again North-Rhine Westphalia, again suspected Islamists who have Tajik roots. So is North Rhine-Westphalia targeted by this group?

In fact, this ISIS splinter group seems to want to gain a foothold in North Rhine-Westphalia. According to the Federal Public Prosecutor’s Office, the foursome arrested in 2020 planned to attack US army facilities in Germany as well as individuals. The suspects had already had weapons, ammunition and components for explosive devices. The five men had already joined ISIS in January 2019 and had been directed by leading terrorists from Syria and Afghanistan.

According to the Federal Prosecutor’s Office, the group was first supposed to travel to Tajikistan to fight in the “Holy War” against the government there. But then the plans changed and attacks were to take place in Germany. Two US air force bases were spied on for this purpose. Security circles have stressed to the newspaper DER WESTEN that the case shows a continuing danger of ISIS – even if the terrorist group has largely lost its territory in Syria and Iraq.

Islamism expert Sigrid Herrmann-Marschall (57) on the “Tajik phenomenon”, especially in North Rhine-Westphalia: “In my estimation, Muslims of Tajik origin are more at home in institutions that are close to the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood. There they meet like-minded people. The background to this is that their own places of prayer are not available.”

The expert continues: “It depends on both the local conditions and the vigilance of the imams that radical Tajiks do not congregate in these mosques. There is a latent danger. I hope that it will be possible to determine from the soon to begin trial how the structures of such terror cells are set up.”

The Federal Public Prosecutor’s Office now wants to take these men out of circulation and brought charges against the five men on February 1, 2021. One of the men is said to have carried out terror propaganda from North-Rhine Westphalia, especially in the Russian- and Tajik-language online network of the “IS province of Khorasan”, he had ideologically trained followers and interested parties worldwide, radicalised them. This network was significantly involved in the radicalisation of the Stockholm attacker, who killed four people and injured numerous others with a truck on April 7, 2017, according to the Office of the Attorney General.

Funds were also allegedly collected to expand propaganda and recruit more members in Germany. Their goal was to take up armed struggle against “infidels”. They also trained themselves in physical training for this, including paintball games. Among the participants of this “training” were also Islamists who had contact with the assassin of Vienna on November 2, 2020.

It is indeed to be wished that the trial will bring more clarity….

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