The offices of a German newspaper that republished satirical cartoons from Charlie Hebdo, a French magazine known for lampooning Islam, have been hit by arsonists.
No one was hurt in the attack on the Hamburger Morgenpost, which occurred in the early morning hours of January 11 and caused only minor damage.
Although police arrested two individuals in connection with the incident, their identities have not yet been released to the public. But German police said they are "working under the assumption" that the attack was connected to the decision by the paper, also known as MOPO, to republish cartoons spoofing Mohammed on its front page on January 8, as an act of solidarity with the attack on the journalists of Charlie Hebdo.
Firefighters work at the offices of the Hamburger Morgenpost newspaper in Hamburg, Germany, which was attacked by arsonists on January 11. (Image source: Tagesschau video screenshot)
Hamburg Mayor Olaf Scholz said that any attack on the press and freedom of expression is an attack on democracy. "A free press and freedom of expression are part of the foundation on which democracy rests," Scholz said. "A democratic society without a press-mediated conversation about the political and social issues of our time cannot be imagined."
The attack came a day after the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel reported that Germany's Federal Criminal Police Agency (Bundeskriminalamt, BKA) has enacted a nationwide emergency plan in an effort to prevent Islamic terrorists from striking in Germany.
According to Der Spiegel, federal and state security agencies have been ordered to locate the whereabouts of up to 250 German Islamists and other "relevant persons" whose identities are known to counter-terrorism authorities. The magazine also reported that the BKA had evidence "that key European cities could be attacked at any time."
In an interview with the newspaper Bild am Sonntag on January 11, German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere confirmed that German intelligence was monitoring "around 260 individuals" who could potentially strike at any moment. He said:
"We have no concrete evidence of attacks. But, as I said, we have about 260 dangerous individuals (Gefährder). We also have around 550 people who have travelled to the battle zones in Syria and Iraq. Between 150 and 180 of these have returned to Germany, and 30 of them are battle-hardened fundamentalists. They pose a serious threat to our security. I am very concerned about well-prepared perpetrators such as those in Paris, Brussels, Australia and Canada. This is a serious situation."
Bild questioned whether Germany has enough security personnel to track all the potential terrorists. According to the newspaper, at least 60 police officers are needed to successfully monitor just one German jihadist around the clock.
De Maiziere said he was doing all he could, but he conceded: "So far we have been lucky. Unfortunately, this may not always be the case."
In a separate article, Bild reported that British intelligence has warned European authorities of a plan to attack passenger aircraft with explosives that cannot be detected by airport scanners.
In December, undercover inspectors from the European Commission, the administrative arm of the European Union, reportedly found that dangerous weapons and other banned items passed through security at Frankfurt Airport, the largest in Germany, undetected 50 percent of the time. The security lapses at Europe's third-largest airport have set off alarm bells across the continent.
Bild also reported that American intelligence agencies had intercepted the conversations of senior members of the Islamic State [IS] in which they said the attacks in Paris were just the "first shot" in a series of attacks to be carried out in other European capitals, including Rome.
Italian media have been reporting on a four-minute video that threatens to attack famous historical sites in Rome, including the Coliseum, the Pantheon, the Trevi Fountain and the Vatican. The video includes English subtitles that warn:
"O Europeans, the Islamic State did not initiate a war against you, as your governments and media try to make you believe. It is you who started the transgression against us, and thus you deserve blame and you will pay a great price.
"You will pay the price when your economies collapse. You will pay the price when you sons are sent to wage war against us, and they return to you as disabled amputees, or inside coffins, or mentally ill.
"You will pay the price as you are afraid of travelling to any land. Rather you will pay the price as you walk on your streets, turning right and left, fearing the Muslims. You will not feel secure even in your bedrooms.
"We will strike you in your homeland, and you will never be able to harm anyone afterwards.
"We have warned you that today we are in a new era, an era where the [Islamic] State, its soldiers, and its sons are leaders not slaves. They are a people who through the ages have not known defeat. The outcome of their battles is concluded before they begin. Being killed—according to their account—is a victory.
"This is where the secret lies. You fight a people who can never be defeated. They either gain victory or are killed.
"O Crusaders, you have realized the threat of the Islamic State, but you have not become aware of the cure, and you will not discover the cure because there is no cure. If you fight it, it becomes tougher and stronger. If you leave it alone, it grows and expands.
"We will conquer your Rome, break your crosses, and enslave your women, by the permission of Allah."
Back in Germany, more than 25,000 people showed up in the eastern German city of Dresden on January 12 for a weekly gathering of a burgeoning grassroots movement known as PEGIDA—short for "Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the West."
In what was the largest turnout yet, marchers wore black armbands and observed a minute of silence for "the victims of terrorism in Paris."
PEGIDA, which has been organizing so-called "evening walks" (Abendspaziergang) through downtown Dresden every Monday evening since October, has seen the number of protesters increase exponentially from week to week. Around 500 people gathered at the first such event, while 18,000 people attended a rally that was held on January 4.
PEGIDA offshoots are also emerging across Germany, including: Bavaria (BAGIDA), Berlin (BAERGIDA), Cologne (KöGIDA), Hamburg (HAGIDA), Kassel (KAGIDA), Leipzig (LEGIDA), Rostock (ROGIDA), Südthüringen (SüGIDA) and Würzburg (WüGIDA).
On its Facebook page, PEGIDA wrote that the attack against Charlie Hebdo in Paris confirmed its worst fears. It warned:
"The Islamists who PEGIDA has been warning about for 12 weeks showed France that they are incapable of democracy and rather look to violence and death as an answer! Our politicians want us to believe the opposite. Must such a tragedy happen here in Germany first???"