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Attack on German consulate in Afghanistan planned for months: report

A bomb attack on the German consulate in Mazar-i-Sharif had been planned six months in advance in Pakistan, according to a media report. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the blast which killed six and wounded 128. The deadly attack on the German consulate in the Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif earlier this month was planned further in advance than previously believed, according to a German newspaper report on Sunday. At least six people died and another 128 people were wounded when attackers drove an explosives-laden truck into the German consulate compound on November 10. One attacker died while another was taken into police custody. The blast was claimed by the Taliban who said they carried out the attack as retaliation for Germany's support of a US airstrike in Kunduz in early November that killed 30 Afghan civilians. However, a report from the German "Bild am Sonntag" newspaper provides a different timeline than the one suggested by the Taliban. The sole surviving attacker admitted in police questioning that the Taliban recruited him along with a group of other men in Pakistan around six months prior to the bomb attack, "Bild am Sonntag" reported, citing diplomatic sources. The Taliban gave the group firearms and bomb-making training in preparation for the consulate attack, the man said as cited by the paper. "Bild am Sonntag" also said that more German soldiers took part in the rescue operation than had previously been reported. Shortly after the truck blast, German air force and members of the German army's Special Forces Command (KSK) rushed to the consulate. The KSK troops "cleared" the building while others secured the diplomats, the newspaper reported. Later, the whole group moved outside, supported by US combat helicopters and Bundeswehr surveillance drones. According to eye witnesses, the consulate was later searched by German specialists who destroyed sensitive documents, the newspaper reported, adding that such a practice is usual in such cases.

A bomb attack on the German consulate in Mazar-i-Sharif had been planned six months in advance in Pakistan, according to a media report. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the blast which killed six and wounded 128. The deadly attack on the German consulate in the Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif earlier this month was planned further in advance than previously believed, ... Read More »

Merkel to stand for fourth term as Chancellor, CDU politician Norbert Röttgen tells CNN

Norbert Röttgen, a member of Angela Merkel's CDU party, has told CNN the German chancellor intends to run for a fourth term. It had been unclear whether or not she would run again after holding the post for 11 years. Röttgen made the comments to CNN on Tuesday night when a reporter mentioned that Merkel had yet to commit to running for another term as chancellor. "She will run for chancellor," Röttgen answered, adding that Merkel "is absolutely determined, ready and willing to contribute to strengthen the international liberal order." CNN's Fred Pleitgen had asked the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) politician and close Merkel ally whether the Chancellor wanted to maintain the "liberal order in the trans-Atlantic area." In response, Röttgen said Merkel is "a cornerstone of this political concept of the West as acting as a global player." However, Röttgen cautioned that for the West to succeed as a global player, "it would be impossible to rely only on one person." He added that the cooperation and participation of the United States is also required. Both the CDU and the German government said they could neither confirm nor deny Röttgen's comments. Merkel, who has held the post for 11 years, has yet to announce whether she will run again, saying she will unveil her decision "at the appropriate time." Reaction to Trump DW's political correspondent Rupert Wiederwald said it was not clear whether or not Röttgen was acting on Merkel's behalf or if he had other motives. He added that the decision to announce Merkel's candidacy now "clearly" is a reaction to US president-elect Donald Trump's surprising win against Hillary Clinton in the presidential election last week. Following Trump's electoral win, Merkel congratulated the Republican politician but said she would cooperate with the new US leader based on the values of "democracy, freedom, the respect for the law and the dignity of human beings, independent of their origin, skin color, religion, gender, sexual orientation or political position." Merkel has faced criticism at home over her refugee policies which saw nearly 900,000 asylum-seekers enter Germany in 2015. In Germany, the chancellor is not directly elected by a public vote, but through a majority vote in the Bundestag. Typically, the leader of the party which receives the most votes in the national election is elected chancellor. Germany's next general election will take place in 2017.

Norbert Röttgen, a member of Angela Merkel’s CDU party, has told CNN the German chancellor intends to run for a fourth term. It had been unclear whether or not she would run again after holding the post for 11 years. Röttgen made the comments to CNN on Tuesday night when a reporter mentioned that Merkel had yet to commit to ... Read More »

Police make raids against suspected ‘IS’ supporters across 10 states in Germany

Authorities have carried out more than 200 searches against suspected radical fundamentalists. German media reported that the targets were part of the well-known "True Religion" Salafist group. A string of raids were carried out across Germany early on Tuesday morning against suspected "Islamic State" (IS) sympathizers. According to news agency DPA, the raids took place in more than 200 homes and offices across 10 federal states. Authorities carried out searches targeting individuals belonging to the "True Religion" Salafist group ("Der wahre Religion"), who have stirred up controversy for passing out a particularly fundamentalist translation of the Koran. The Interior Ministry confirmed the actions in a tweet, and announced a ban of the organization: Some 65 raids were carried out in the state of Hesse, 15 of them in the city of Frankfurt alone. Every one of the searches took place in Berlin or the former West. Salafism promotes a very strict interpretation of Islamic scripture and the use of Sharia law to impose order. The "True Religion" Salafists targeted in Tuesday’s raid have become infamous in Germany in recent years for disseminating copies of the Koran emblazoned with the slogan "Read It!" before they were banned from doing so in pedestrian zones by Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière. The raids came just one week after German authorities began a renewed crackdown on the country’s top Salafist ideologues, including 32-year old hate preacher Abu Walaa. Walaa, an Iraqi who has been in Germany since 2000, is suspected of supporting IS interests in Germany.

Authorities have carried out more than 200 searches against suspected radical fundamentalists. German media reported that the targets were part of the well-known “True Religion” Salafist group. A string of raids were carried out across Germany early on Tuesday morning against suspected “Islamic State” (IS) sympathizers. According to news agency DPA, the raids took place in more than 200 homes ... Read More »

Bird flu spreads in Germany, sparking fears for holiday meals

Tens of thousands of new cases of bird flu have been reported in Germany, as the disease spreads across Europe. Authorities are concerned about the economic consequences, with poultry in high demand during the holidays. Germany revealed more cases of a dangerous strain of avian influenza on Saturday, alongside reports that the disease had spread to Switzerland, Austria, Hungary, Poland, the Netherlands, Denmark and Croatia. The H5N8 virus has affected some 30,000 chickens in the northern German state of Schleswig-Holstein. Authorities said an area of 3 square kilometers (1.2 square miles) around the affected farm had been sealed off. Berlin has set up a crisis management task force to tackle the issue, after reports also came in from Austria that another large outbreak was suspected in an area along the border with Bavaria. Authorities urge extreme caution At the same time, Switzerland has confirmed that a number of dead birds found along Lake Geneva were confirmed to be carrying the H5N8 virus. Bern and Vienna both immediately took steps to contain the disease from spreading further, authorities said. This particular strain of avian influenza arrived in Europe from South Korea in 2014, brought by migratory waterfowl. Massive culling followed after wild ducks, geese and swans passed the disease to farmed birds like chickens and turkeys. Authorities have urged extreme caution and care on the part of farmers and food inspectors. The upcoming holiday season will increase the demand for duck, goose and chicken, and the flu outbreak could have serious economic consequences. Avian influenza spreads easily among domestic poultry, but only certain subtypes - H5N1 and H7N9 - are known to infect humans.

Tens of thousands of new cases of bird flu have been reported in Germany, as the disease spreads across Europe. Authorities are concerned about the economic consequences, with poultry in high demand during the holidays. Germany revealed more cases of a dangerous strain of avian influenza on Saturday, alongside reports that the disease had spread to Switzerland, Austria, Hungary, Poland, ... Read More »

Germany boosts African aid to curb irregular migration

The new funds will help would-be migrants in their African home countries, said Germany's foreign minister. The latest contribution pushes Berlin's humanitarian budget to 1.28 billion euros for 2016. Berlin on Monday pledged to raise its contributions to the UN refugee agency by 61 million euros ($67.44 million) in a bid to curb the number of African migrants attempting the perilous journey to Europe. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier announced the contribution upgrade after meeting with UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi in the nation's capital. Berlin's latest move to curb irregular migration to the EU has brought its total contribution to UNHCR to 298 million euros ($329 million) this year, making its total budget for humanitarian efforts 1.28 billion euros, up from 105 million euros in 2012. Foreign ministry officials said the aid was expected to benefit people in Burundi, Mali, Somalia, South Sudan and neighboring countries, alongside those living in areas impacted by the Boko Haram militant group's insurgency in the Lake Chad region. "These countries urgently need our help. The money will allow people to be cared for near their homes so they don't have to make the dangerous journey to Europe," Steinmeier said. "The situation in these countries has been dramatically exacerbated by the recent escalation of existing conflicts or the break out of new conflicts and climate-related natural catastrophes," Steinmeier added. Contingency plans The increase in funds to aid refugees and internally displaced persons forms part of a plan to address the needs of possible migrants in their homeland. However, German authorities have explored further options to impede irregular migration to Europe. Earlier this week, Germany's interior minister said he had reviewed plans to prevent migrants from reaching the 28-nation bloc by intercepting migrants at sea, and returning them to their home countries. Some 890,000 migrants entered Germany in 2015, many of them fleeing conflict and extreme poverty in Africa, the Middle East and Asia.

The new funds will help would-be migrants in their African home countries, said Germany’s foreign minister. The latest contribution pushes Berlin’s humanitarian budget to 1.28 billion euros for 2016. Berlin on Monday pledged to raise its contributions to the UN refugee agency by 61 million euros ($67.44 million) in a bid to curb the number of African migrants attempting the ... Read More »

German justice minister demands tighter child marriage laws

Social Democrat and German Justice Minister Heiko Maas has called for tighter laws on child marriages. Some 1,475 foreign children currently living in Germany are listed as "married" on their official paperwork. According to German law, marriage is permitted from the age of 18. If granted permission from a family court, it is also possible for a 16-year-old to marry, provided that the partner is 18 or over. The issue becomes more complex, however, when an already-married couple arrives in Germany, with one partner underage. Legal precedent stipulates that marriages performed abroad are legal in Germany if they were legal in the country in which they were carried out. In Saturday's online edition of "Passauer Neue Presse," German Justice Minster Heiko Maas said he was to tighten Germany's laws to prevent child marriages. "It is only possible to get married from the age of 18," the Social Democrat (SPD) said. "We will not accept child marriages." 'Prerequisite for successful integration' Maas intends to ban all marriages of minors under the age of 16 "without exception." Under his proposals, child marriages which were certified abroad would also no longer recognized in Germany. "Our state cannot allow girls under the age of 16 to be married," Maas said, adding that "in principle, even marriages among 16 to 18-year-olds should not be recognized." In these situations, however, a case-by-case test could be useful, the justice minister said - especially in cases of particular hardship, for example when a child already exists in the marriage. "It is very important to me that every decision always focuses on the well-being of the affected woman." Those who come to Germany must also adhere to the laws in the country, the minister added: "This is a prerequisite for successful integration. We grant refugees rights when they come to our country, and they also have to fulfill their obligations." Refugee crisis prompts legal conundrum In the wake of the refugee crisis, child marriage has proven to be somewhat of a legal dilemma for Germany. According to recent figures from the country's Central Register of Foreign Nationals some 1,475 foreign children currently living in Germany are listed as "married" on their official paperwork. Even more concerning, the office said, was the likelihood that the actual number is much higher. The most highly represented country of origin was Syria (664). There were also many from Afghanistan (157) and Iraq (100). Several youths from European countries like Bulgaria (65), Poland (41), Romania (33) and Greece (32) were also on the list. While more than two-thirds of those registered as married are between 16 and 18, there are 361 children under the age of 14 legally married and living in Germany. Maas' comments on Saturday came just days after Germany's interior ministry confirmed reports in "Die Welt," that Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere (CDU) had suggested imposing fines on Muslim imams in Germany who conduct marriages involving underage children, generally girls. De Maiziere reportedly wants to introduce fines for religious officials marrying people under the age of 16. According to information cited by "Die Welt," the fine could be as high as 1,000 euros ($1,114).

Social Democrat and German Justice Minister Heiko Maas has called for tighter laws on child marriages. Some 1,475 foreign children currently living in Germany are listed as “married” on their official paperwork. According to German law, marriage is permitted from the age of 18. If granted permission from a family court, it is also possible for a 16-year-old to marry, ... Read More »

Italian coastguard rescues thousands of refugees

Officers have rescued 5,700 migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean in the last two days, the Italian coastguard said. They also recovered 14 bodies of refugees who drowned while crossing over from Libya. The coastguard coordinated 20 rescue operations over the weekend, intercepting about 2,400 people. Around 3,300 more migrants disembarked in five different ports in Sicily over the two days, the ANSA news agency reported. Rescue workers also saved over 460 migrants who arrived in Naples on Sunday, but it was not clear if those rescued had been accounted for in prior counts, local interior minister Gerarda Pantalone told reporters. "I've never had a SAR [Search and Rescue] like it. We were in the process of transferring 1,000 migrants from the Okyroe [tanker] to the Siem Pilot when suddenly, in the dark, rubber boats appeared. It looked hopeless," Pal Erik Teigen, the police officer in charge of the rescue operation, told reporters on Sunday. The Italian coastguard said it recovered seven dead bodies on Friday and another seven the next day. Around 25 people were still missing and were feared drowned after the Libyan coastguard attacked a migrant dinghy during a rescue operation. Rescue workers of the German navy also saved 844 people in the weekend's operation together with the Italians. The refugees were being brought to an Italian harbor aboard the support ship Werra. The German military has been participating in the action, called Operation Sophia, since 2015. Italy is the main landing point for migrants who travel from North Africa and undertake a perilous voyage in flimsy vessels over the Mediterranean Sea to reach Europe. These boats are often overcrowded, and passengers are exposed to exhaust fumes or suffer from hypothermia or dehydration. According to the International Institute of Migration (IOM), 146,381 migrants have landed in Italy so far this year. Around 3,645 refugees have died on the journey. Meanwhile, Rome has been engaged in a row with the European Commission on funding for the refugees. Prime Minister Matteo Renzi complained about the lack of solidarity from EU partners. "We cannot go on like this, we need a radical solution," he said on a visit to Sicily over the weekend. He also insisted on a fine to penalize Eastern European nations that refused to take in migrants.

Officers have rescued 5,700 migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean in the last two days, the Italian coastguard said. They also recovered 14 bodies of refugees who drowned while crossing over from Libya. The coastguard coordinated 20 rescue operations over the weekend, intercepting about 2,400 people. Around 3,300 more migrants disembarked in five different ports in Sicily over the two ... Read More »

‘Reichsbürger’ far-right couple attack police in eastern Germany

Following a deadly shootout in Bavaria, another incident involving extremists saw police attacked in Saxony-Anhalt. Members of the "Reichsbürger" movement refused to accept the authority of the German government. The same day a Bavarian policeman died after a shootout with a far-right extremist, police in the eastern state of Saxony-Anhalt were attacked by assailants also belonging to the "Reichsbürger" movement, German media reported on Friday. Two officers in the town of Salzwedel were struck by a 43-year-old man and his 34-year-old wife after the pair refused to be escorted out of the town square. They called the police officers "Nazis" and continued to throw punches, landing one of the officers in the hospital to be treated for minor injuries. The "Reichsbürger" movement has received renewed press in recent days after an incident in the southern town of Georgensgmünd which saw three officers wounded and a third killed. The self-proclaimed "Reichsbürger" do not recognize the authority of the German state, and believe the borders of Germany are those that existed prior to the Second World War. They allege that Germany remains occupied by the Allied Forces. Berlin's state intelligence recently described the group as "an extremely diverse range of small groups and individuals who believe in an ideological mixture of conspiracy theories, anti-Semitic and anti-democratic views, and who have been behaving increasingly aggressively for some time." Security services will not track 'Reichsbürger' Although they are nationalists, they are not considered neo-Nazis, and not all of them are right-wing extremists, according to German authorities. According to the Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger newspaper, this means the security services do not intend to surveil them, as they only believe there to be about 100 active "Reichsbürger" members in Germany and that most of them are not dangerous. But in Bavaria on Wednesday, an encounter with one member of the movement did indeed turn out to be deadly. A 32-year-old officer was killed and three others wounded, one severely, in a gun fight. The officers had intended to raid the 49-year-old man's house to relieve him of weapons he had been deemed unfit to continue possessing. The suspect was lightly wounded and taken into custody in the course of the raid. Bavaria's Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann warned that, while small in number, the "Reichsbürger" should not be dismissed as merely an "association of crackpots."

Following a deadly shootout in Bavaria, another incident involving extremists saw police attacked in Saxony-Anhalt. Members of the “Reichsbürger” movement refused to accept the authority of the German government. The same day a Bavarian policeman died after a shootout with a far-right extremist, police in the eastern state of Saxony-Anhalt were attacked by assailants also belonging to the “Reichsbürger” movement, ... Read More »

Cause of deadly explosion at BASF chemical plant in Ludwigshafen remains unclear

Investigators in the western German town of Ludwigshafen are still trying to determine the cause of the explosion at the BASF chemical plant. Two people were killed, two remain missing and six were severely injured. Following the severe explosion at the BASF chemical plant in Ludwigshafen on Monday, German authorities continued on Tuesday to investigate the cause of the blast which killed at least two employees. Officials said terrorism has been ruled out. "The fire has been extinguished," a spokesman for Ludwigshafen police said early on Tuesday, adding that the situation remains unclear. "It's difficult for the rescue workers to reach the scene of the accident," he said. Employees still missing Two other employees were still unaccounted for on Tuesday while another six were in hospital after suffering serious injuries. The explosion and fire on Monday occurred at around 11:30 a.m. local time (0930 UTC) at a river harbor, used to unload flammable liquids and liquid gas. Following the explosion, a pipeline that was undergoing repairs began spewing soot, BASF plant manager Uwe Liebelt told reporters. Several witnesses also posted videos on social media in which huge flames and plumes of thick black smoke were seen billowing from the plant. Residents in Ludwigshafen and the nearby city of Mannheim were told by police to stay indoors and suggested they close all windows and doors as it wasn't immediately clear which chemicals could be airborne. The city of Ludwigshafen reported on Twitter that residents located near the plant were complaining of "respiratory irritation." Damge levels unclear As a safety precaution, BASF also shut down 14 other production plants and erected water barriers between the northern inland port and the Rhine. The economic consequences and the damage levels remain unclear. The incident on Monday came just two years after Ludwigshafen was shaken by a devastating gas explosion, close to the BASF chemical plant. Gas transport company Gascade had been digging around a buried pipeline at the time of the blast. One excavation worker was killed and 20 other people were injured. Nearby houses and trees were burned to charcoal, leaving an entire neighborhood devastated. Authorities in Ludwigshafen have shared a telephone hotline for those directly affected by Monday's explosion: +49 62 157 086 000.

Investigators in the western German town of Ludwigshafen are still trying to determine the cause of the explosion at the BASF chemical plant. Two people were killed, two remain missing and six were severely injured. Following the severe explosion at the BASF chemical plant in Ludwigshafen on Monday, German authorities continued on Tuesday to investigate the cause of the blast ... Read More »

Saxony justice minister admits mistakes following suspected terrorist’s death

Saxony Justice Minister Sebastian Gemkow has admitted that his department is in need of reform following terror suspect Jaber Albakr's suicide. This has sparked outrage in Germany and calls for Gemkow to step down. For the first time since terror suspect Jaber Albakr committed suicide while in police custody, Gemkow conceded that Saxony's law enforcement officials made mistakes, in remarks published on Sunday. "We all have to learn about how to deal with Islamist prisoners," the state's justice minister told German daily "Bild am Sonntag." He added that it was "obvious" that Saxony's current procedures for providing safe prisoner accommodations were "not enough." Gemkow said it was possible that Islamist terror suspects commit suicide in order to purposefully make investigations more difficult. "We weren't sufficiently prepared for this case in Saxony," the state's justice minister told the newspaper. 'Procedures for jihadists' In light of regional law enforcement's inexperience in dealing with Islamist terror suspects, the head of Germany's main police union, Rainer Wendt, told the newspaper that experts should be brought in. "In cases where the federal prosecutor takes over, a task force of specialists should immediately intervene," Wendt said. Burkhard Lischka, the internal affairs spokesman for the center-left Social Democrats, also called for a rethink of law enforcement procedures in cases of alleged terrorism. "We need special procedures for jihadists," he said. Controversy in Saxony In a raid on Albakr's Chemnitz apartment last Saturday - during which the suspect apparently escaped - police found 1.5 kilograms (3.30 pounds) of TATP, a dangerous homemade explosive. Albakr was handed over to police after a two-day manhunt, but he committed suicide in his cell in Leipzig on Wednesday. He is suspected of planning an attack on a Berlin airport. During a press conference on Thursday, Gemkow said Saxony authorities found "no acute danger of suicide." Despite calls from several opposition lawmakers for him to step down, he said he did not see a reason to resign.

Saxony Justice Minister Sebastian Gemkow has admitted that his department is in need of reform following terror suspect Jaber Albakr’s suicide. This has sparked outrage in Germany and calls for Gemkow to step down. For the first time since terror suspect Jaber Albakr committed suicide while in police custody, Gemkow conceded that Saxony’s law enforcement officials made mistakes, in remarks ... Read More »

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