On Tuesday, November 21, German police conducted a series of early morning raids across four different German states. They arrested six men whom authorities believe were involved with ISIS and were actively planning an attack on German soil.
The men, aged 20–28, were all ISIS fighters in Syria before entering Germany with false identities and seeking asylum as refugees. Authorities, who have recently claimed their investigations involving "radical Islamists" have risen by 300% since 2016, raided eight apartments while taking the men into custody.
Investigators aren't revealing many details about the terrorists' suspected attack. They released a statement saying the men were "planning an attack with weapons or explosives on a public target in Germany." German media, however, have been reporting that the Christmas market in the city of Essen was the intended target.
One European terrorism investigator, who asked BuzzFeed News to remain anonymous to sustain his relationship with the German police, commented that this group of six men shows all the signs of a highly advanced terrorist cell — perhaps the most sophisticated Europe has seen since the attacks in Paris that killed 130 people in November 2015.
These guys had been ISIS in Syria and didn’t stop when they got to Germany. They remained in contact with one another across Germany, and it appears were still controlled by a central ISIS commander. It was clear that they were still operational and not just some guys who used to be fighters before fleeing the region.
This news comes at an inconvenient time for Chancellor Angela Merkel. Her Christian Democratic Union political party lost seats in the most recent election, which led her to begin negotiations for a power-sharing agreement with another party to form a majority within Parliament. The potential deal imploded this weekend, however, leaving Merkel in a precarious situation. Either the government can proceed without a majority in power for the first time since WWII, or new elections can be held, giving far-right parties the opportunity to further protest the Chancellor's relatively relaxed immigration policies.
In 2014 and 2015, roughly one million refugees fled unstable areas in the Middle East and northern Africa for a safer life in Europe. It's estimated the German government took in some 800,000 Syrians and Iraqis. As violence in these regions continues to force people from their homes, refugees will continue to seek asylum as world governments strain to handle the crisis.