The German Interior Ministry has reported a significant rise in the number of Islamist extremists living in the country. Officially classified as Salafists, or radicalized Muslims, their number has crossed 11,000 for the first time.

Five years ago the intelligence agencies had placed their number at 5,500—almost half of the present size. Those figures have been on an upward swing since German Chancellor Angela Merkel opened the country’s borders to migrants in the autumn of 2015.

The latest revelations should come as a wake-up call for the Merkel government which has spent millions of euros in ineffective de-radicalization programs aimed at young Muslims. This year German government has earmarked €100 million for ‘de-radicalizing’ the growing number of potential jihadis in the country.

Cities of Berlin and Hamburg were emerging as major Islamist strongholds, the latest data suggested. The German weekly DER SPIEGEL reported:

The Salafists scene in Germany has grown significantly in past five years. According to the Federal Interior Ministry, around 11,000 people hold allegiance to this ultra-conservative version of Islam.Their numbers have doubled since 2013. At that time the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution [Germany’s domestic spy agency, or BfV] had estimated their number at around 5,500. […]

It has been noted that smaller federal states, such as Hamburg or Berlin, have seen a higher surge in the number of Salafists compared to the larger ones, the newspaper TAGESSPIEGEL wrote quoting security experts. Meanwhile, 898 Salafists live in Hamburg, TAGESSPIEGEL reported citing domestic spy agency (BfV). More than half of them (434) are classified as jihadis and therefore considered violent.

The Islamist scene in North Rhine-Westphalia [Germany’s most populous state] is dominated by women. Police there have been monitoring dozens of female Salafists. Work is underway to prepare a list of banned mosques in the state.

Federal Criminal Office [the German equivalent of the FBI] has classified around 760 people as dangerous Islamists—those considered capable of carrying out acts of terror by the law enforcement. More than half of them are currently in German and 153 are serving prison time. [Translation by the author]

Around 1,000 German jihadis had left the country to join the ISIS. The collapse of the Islamic Caliphate in Syria and Iraq has forced hundreds of them to come home. Instead of taking measures to block their entry into the country, Merkel’s government is planning to bring back the wives and children of German ISIS fighters who are currently being held by the Iraqi or Kurdish forces. Merkel’s government has justified this decision by claiming “humanitarian considerations” and “Germany’s duty to protect its citizens,” the German public broadcaster DEUTSCHE WELLE reported.

Last November, Hans-Georg Maassen, the chief of Germany’s BfV intelligence agency, publicly cautioned the government of the severe threat posed by these ISIS women and children ‘heading home’ to Germany. “There are children who have been brainwashed and highly radicalized at ‘schools’ in IS-held areas,” Maassen said. “It’s a problem for us because many of these kids and teenagers can at times be dangerous.”

Returning ISIS fighters and the unregulated mass migration from Arab and Muslim countries will only compound Germany’s surging Islamist threat. With ‘de-radicalizing’ programs failing miserably to contain the problem, the German government might consider securing the country’s borders and deporting foreign Islamists. But with Chancellor Merkel at the helm for four more years that won’t be happening any time soon.

Video: German Intel chief raises alarm over ISIS children returning from Syria

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