Asharq Al-awsat English Middle-east and International News and Opinion from Asharq Al-awsat Newspaper

Germany Expands GSG 9 Unit As Dozens Return from Syria, Iraq

Germany Expands GSG 9 Unit As Dozens Return from Syria, Iraq

Tuesday, 16 January, 2018 - 10:00
GSG 9 Members (Asharq Al-Awsat)

Germany's Ministry of Interior is expanding its anti-terrorism unit GSG 9 and installing a second base for the special squad in Berlin.

Germany's elite police squad GSG 9 deals with terrorist attacks amid the ongoing terrorist threats in the capital.

GSG 9 commander Jerome Fuchs said that expanding the unit will be about around a third of its current strength. He told Berlin public broadcaster RBB on Monday, that finding the right personnel would be a "big challenge," and that "fitness, confidence, and teamwork" were the particular assets he prized most.

According to Fuchs, the GSG 9 is called out on around 50 missions every year.

Fuchs added that the decision to create a second base had been made because of an ongoing terrorist threat in Germany, especially Berlin.

"If you look at comparable terrorist situations across Europe, then it was often capital cities that were affected," Fuchs told the station, adding: "It is essential that we are better prepared in the capital. Our aim is clear: GSG 9 needs to be capable of quicker reactions in the capital."

While there has been no final decision on where the base in Berlin is to be built, Fuchs said it would most likely be in Spandau, northwestern the capital.

The GSG 9 currently is based in St Augustine near the former West German capital, Bonn.

The GSG 9 was created in 1972 and is best known for storming the Landshut in 1977. The exact number of GSG 9's members is not determined, however, its founder Ulrich Wegener, who died recently, stated that its members are estimated to be 400.

Meanwhile, the interior ministries of German states estimated the return of some 200 German ISIS members from fighting zones in Syria and Iraq to Germany. In response to inquiries by Der Spiegel and Bavaria Radio, the ministry stated that dozens of returnees are at large because of insufficient evidence against them.

The ministries reiterated that investigations with returnees are conducted, but only a small number of suspects are in prison because there is no clear evidence of their involvement in the fighting and crimes committed there.

In Bavaria, known for its strict sentences, only two of the 22 returnees from combat zones in Syria and Iraq have been convicted. Two members had been confirmed to belong to a terrorist group affiliated with al-Qaeda terrorist organization. A third person is under arrest on suspicion of belonging to a terrorist organization. The rest so far are free, but are "under strict surveillance," according to the ministry.

In Hamburg, 25 terrorism suspects returned from ISIS areas of the 80 individuals who had joined from those areas. The situation in Bavaria is not that different from Hamburg, because the public prosecution arrested only one person from these returnees.

Lower Saxony’s Interior Ministry responded says that the number of detainees could be counted on the fingers of one hand, despite the fact that one-third of the 80 participants have returned.

As for Hesse, the ministry indicated that 35 individuals returned from combat zones in Syria and Iraq, with no evidence against half of them being involved in combat operations there.

According to Der Spiegel, some states did not respond, while others do not have accurate statistics on the number of returnees and detainees. The magazine estimates that many returnees do not want to disclose information that could condemn others fearing that this information will be used against them by states interior ministries.

Editor Picks