German police watching more than 400 militants

BERLIN, Jan 15, (Agencies): The number of Islamist militant fi ghters returning to Germany from Syria and Iraq is on the rise and more than 400 people are being watched, the head of German police said on Friday. Holger Muench, president of the BKA federal police, told ARD television that the number of people leaving Germany for the two countries to fi ght with militant groups such as Islamic State was dropping. But there has been a simultaneous rise in the number of fi ghters returning home. “The wave of departures is becoming flatter,” he said. “In the meantime, we have more than 400 individuals who pose a threat and whom we must keep an eye on.” Muench said, however, that the suicide bombing in Istanbul this week in which 10 German tourists were killed was not a sign that the threat of a militant attack in Germany was higher than before. The attack was carried out by an Islamic State suicide bomber who entered Turkey as a refugee from Syria, the Turkish government said, adding that the militant had not specifically target Germans.

Germany and Turkey are both part of a US-led military coalition that is carrying out air strikes against Islamic State. Meanwhile, Chancellor Angela Merkel will host Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu for talks next Friday, her spokesman said, with discussions to centre on the suicide attack in Istanbul that claimed 10 German lives. Tuesday’s “attack in Istanbul will play a central role” in the talks, said Steffen Seibert, spokesman for Merkel. The two leaders will also discuss issues on both countries’ priority lists, including their fight against terrorism and a record refugee influx to Europe. The talks are part of a series of socalled government consultations that Germany has with only a handful of countries, including India and China. Friday’s meeting would be the first with Turkey’s cabinet and will include interior, foreign and defence ministers from both sides. Turkey has a special relationship with Germany as the biggest EU economy is not only home to around three million people with Turkish roots, but also its biggest trading partner.

Turkey, which shares a border with war-torn Syria, is also a key player in the current record migrant infl ux to Europe, with EU countries needing Ankara’s help to stem the fl ow. It has also stepped up its involvement in the US-led coalition against the Islamic State group, through air strikes as well as the hosting of war planes. Also: COPENHAGEN, Denmark: A Danish court has jailed a person until Feb 9 without revealing any details of the case. Danish television channel TV2 said the suspect is a 15-year-old girl with Muslim extremist sympathies who had explosives in the basement of her home.

Prosecutor Peter Ahleson declined to disclose details, saying Thursday’s custody hearing was held behind socalled double closed doors, meaning no information can be made public. Shrouded custody hearings are customary in terror cases. Denmark’s TV2 channel, citing the girl’s now-closed Facebook page, neighbors and other sources, said the teen was a Danish girl who converted to Islam last year. Police in eastern Denmark confi rmed forensic offi cers and bomb experts searched a villa near Kalundborg, 120 kms (75 miles) west of Copenhagen, Wednesday. They declined to give more details.

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