An asset tasked with monitoring Islamic extremist groups for German intelligence turned out to be an extremist himself, according to German prosecutors.
The 51-year-old German man, whose name has yet to be released, was a recent convert to Islam and was employed by the Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz (BfV), Germany’s domestic intelligence agency. His job was to monitor Salifists, an ultra-conservative sect of Sunni Islam, who were at risk of turning violent. Instead, he acted as a double agent to warn “brothers in faith” of BfV operations against them.
The man was caught offering to use his new position to provide information to an undercover agent to “help the brothers” plan an attack against the BfV itself. He had passed the agency’s clearance process before being hired in April. The asset seemed to live a relatively normal life as a former bank worker with a wife and children before joining the intelligence agency.
“The worker, who started not long ago, had been inconspicuous during the application process, training and at work,” the BfV told the Associated Press in an email.
German officials claim that the asset was unable to do any permanent damage before he was eventually caught.
“So far, there have been no reliable indications that the accused had already given security-relevant information to people from the violent Salafist scene,” German prosecutor Raif Herrenbrueck said to the AP.
The German Interior Ministry, which oversees the BfV, insisted that the case was isolated, spokesman Tobias Plate added that there were “no indications that there are fundamental structural problems” within the agency. Plate also noted that “it is too early to derive any concrete recommendations for action that could arise” regarding the intelligence agency’s recruitment practices.
Unlike its European neighbors, Germany has largely avoided any significant mass-casualty terrorist attacks, although the country has fallen victim to smaller scale attacks. Two refugees engaged in attacks in Germany over the summer which left 5 wounded during an attack with an axe in Wuerzburg and 15 in a bombing near a bar in Ansbach. Both attacks were claimed by the Islamic State. The terrorist group also took credit for the stabbing death of a 16-year-old boy in Hamburg in October. Germany’s Salafist population is estimated at around 9,200, although the number of extremists could rise as the country continues to bring in large influxes of refugees from known terror havens.
The asset is currently being held by German police as they continue to investigate him for suspicion of preparing an act of violence against the state and various other charges.
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