BERLIN — German authorities believe Al Qaeda is targeting their country for attacks and that German Islamists have been traveling to Pakistan for "terrorist training," a top security official told a newspaper.
"The danger that there could be terrorist attacks here is very real," Deputy Interior Minister August Hanning said in an article to run today in Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung. "We have many indications that Al Qaeda is targeting Germany and German installations abroad, such as embassies."
Hanning added, "There is a new quality in the threat to Germany."
In Washington, President Bush said Saturday that he was troubled by a U.S. intelligence report that Al Qaeda has found haven in Pakistan's tribal region near Afghanistan. The National Intelligence Estimate released last week found a "persistent and evolving" threat to the U.S. from Islamic militant groups, especially Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda.
Bush, in his taped weekly radio address, said the report's assessment that Al Qaeda was gaining strength in the tribal region of Pakistan was "one of the most troubling."
Hanning, former head of Germany's BND intelligence agency, said, "We have to assume that the people who returned from Pakistan are planning attacks. This is a new, specific threat and is a cause for concern."
In recent months Pakistani authorities have detained at least seven German Islamists "who could have been involved in planning attacks," he said.
Berlin has also said there may be similar training camps in Afghanistan, where Germany has more than 3,000 troops as part of a North Atlantic Treaty Organization force. The Taliban has threatened to step up attacks on German troops.
There were conflicting reports Saturday of what happened to two German civil engineers abducted by the Taliban. The group initially said it had killed the two after its demands for Germany to withdraw troops and for Kabul to release all Taliban prisoners were ignored. Germany's foreign minister then said one hostage was still alive and the other had died of "stress and strain." An Afghan official confirmed that one was alive and the other died of a heart attack.