Al-Qaida and the German Elections

Posted: 25th September 2009 by Thomas Hegghammer in Bin Laden, Germany, Strategy

Usama Bin Ladin has just released a new audio statement to the European peoples.  It is relatively short (under 5 minutes) and basically tells the Europeans to get out of Afghanistan.  The statement is subtitled in German and is clearly timed to coincide with the German elections this coming Sunday.

Bin Ladin’s statement comes in addition to a series of three statements from Bekkai Harrach threatening Germany. I have not seen this kind of jihadi media offensive in connection with any other non-US election. Of course, I, like everyone else, can’t help thinking of the Spanish elections in 2004.

Peter Neumann at FREEradicals has a good analysis where he reveals that German intelligence are very nervous. Should they be?

Personally I think al-Qaida would not issue all these messages if something really big was in the making in the next few days, precisely because media offensives put intelligence services on high alert.

My guess is that these messages are primarily intended to influence German public opinion at a crucial juncture in the Western campaign in Afghanistan. Germany is a pivotal player in the coalition; her withdrawal could initiate a vicious (or virtuous, depending on one’s preferences) circle of European withdrawals from the Afghanistan enterprise. Al Qaida is focusing the weakest link in the coalition, just as the Madrid bombers were advised to do.

Another function of messages such as this is to set the stage for attacks that may be several months away. By warning Germans before the elections, al-Qaida can punish them afterwards for not doing as he said.

Finally, Bin Ladin and Harrach are probably also hoping that these messages will inspire some independent initiatives from grassroots jihadists in Europe. Today’s arrest of a man in Stuttgart suspected of distributing the video suggests there are people inside Germany who are thus inclined. On a related note, Leah at All Things CT has a post about forum reactions to the Bin Ladin message.

In short, there are good reasons for German analysts to be working some overtime this weekend.

  1. said says:

    I don´t think that aQ did expect to change the results of german elections, because they know, that only a small number of germans will actually watch all the messages aQ released in the last time. So, the below listed argument of Thomas Hegghammer, that the messages functioning as a legimitation for forthcoming attacks, is more evident.
    Greetings from Germany

  2. Raff says:

    Given the absence of a successful attack for such a long time, one has to wonder whether they would make so much noise if they did not have something planned or at least in the not-to-distant pipeline as you say. Maybe the focus on Germany directly is some sort of feint to distract from something elsewhere.

  3. Ibn Siqilli says:

    The Germany angle has certainly been embraced on some of the forums.

  4. Stewart.S says:

    Again the prospected Progressives in Europe will be tested. This depends on the will to remain pure europeans with back bone or surrender to this fate of non assimalation by the Sharia law adopted by liberal socialist progressives to allow this to happen in there own homelands.

  5. Fabio,Naples, in south italy says:

    I’m fully agree, if Germany goes away from Afganistan,then all the other European states will go away. And the reason is the message is this. However, i have several doubts about the veracity of Bin Laden. The documentary by Michael Moore “Farenight 9 \ 11” confirmed me these doubts