By Brian J. Forest, Contributing Editor
In the latest in a series of threats to Europe this month, Germans are on high alert after Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government warned of a possible attack from Islamist extremists.
Speaking Wednesday, Merkel’s interior minister, Thomas de Maziere, said the government was concerned that terrorists might be planning a so-called ‘Mumbai-style’ attack at the end of the year. He urged vigilance but cautioned the public to avoid panic and “not allow international terrorism to limit our lifestyles nor our culture of freedom.”
Even so, German law enforcement has stepped up patrols and officers are preparing for a busy holiday season. The New York Times reported Saturday that German officials are tracking two men from Pakistan’s Waziristan region who may be awaiting a shipment of explosive devices. Both are thought to have gone into hiding by dressing in Western-style clothing and staying away from telephones and the mosque.
The weekly Der Spiegel also reported on a threat to the Reichstag parliament building in Berlin in early 2011, although many have dismissed that threat as overly speculative.
These threats come on the heels of a wave of package bombs shipped from leftist militants in Greece to foreign leaders—one of which was addressed to the chancellor herself—and a foiled terror attack in France. Last week, five French nationals—four men and a woman—were arrested in connection with what the interior minister called a “conspiracy to prepare a terror attack.”
Parcel bombs originating from Yemen were also recently intercepted in the United Kingdom and Dubai. The Yemeni-based Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula boasted that the bombs required little more than “a few months of work and a few thousand bucks,” and that it planned to ship more.
Even with so many threats affecting Europe and its Western allies, officials have urged calm. Speaking in Lisbon on the sidelines of the NATO summit, Merkel assured the public that all necessary measures were being taken to ensure safety. She also sounded a note of defiance, saying that despite the plots, “we are determined not to be deprived of our free way of living by such threats.”