With just a week to go before the German general elections, a purported al-Qaeda video threatening Germany has prompted the German Ministry of Interior to increase security at airports and some railway stations. Although the security measures are being taken now, the video clearly threatens an attack or attacks for the period after the elections and depending on their outcome. The video features Bekkay Harrach, a German Islamist of Moroccan descent who goes by the nom de guerre Abu Talha Al-Almani or “Abu Talha the German.”
Harrach is known to German authorities for two prior propaganda videos that have been attributed to him. But, as he himself makes clear in the current video, he is also known to German authorities for other reasons. Thus, oddly enough, he begins his speech by stating precisely his gratitude toward Germany:
I thank the Federal Republic of Germany for its quick help during my incarceration in Syria. I thank the Federal Republic of Germany for its quick help following my bullet wound in Hebron, Palestine. I thank the Federal Republic of Germany for not bothering my wife following my trip to Afghanistan and not preventing her from leaving the country despite a long period of observation.
Harrach then goes on to stress more general grounds for al-Qaeda as such to be grateful — or at least not particularly hostile – toward Germany. Thus, he notes that Germany is not “so burdened [with guilt] as other colonial states” and that a majority of the population supports the withdrawal of German troops from Afghanistan. “And one should not forget the clear ‘no’ of the German people to the Iraq war.” To this, Harrach could have added that suspected key al-Qaeda operatives like Reda Seyam and Mamoun Darkazanli continue to make their homes in Germany and have, in effect, been protected by Germany from prosecution in other countries. (Specifically on the case of Seyam, see here.)
Harrach repeatedly returns to the theme of the general forbearance of al-Qaeda toward Germany. Thus he notes, for example, that “if al-Qaeda had Germany in its sights for no particular reason [grundlos], then Mohammad Atta would have spared himself a lot of trouble and carried out [the 9/11 attacks] right in Germany.” “Al-Qaeda certainly had and has no interest in a conflict with Germany,” he adds. On Harrach’s account, the only ground for al-Qaeda’s dissatisfaction with Germany – the aforesaid “particular reason” – is the presence of German troops in Afghanistan.
If, however, Harrach shows forbearance and even gratitude toward Germany, the same cannot be said of his attitude toward German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Thus, he severely takes Merkel to task for her support of the Iraq war while she was still the leader of the Christian Democratic opposition to then Chancellor Gerhard Schröder. Harrach recalls Merkel saying at the time that she was prepared to bear the consequences of her position on the Iraq war. “Ms. Merkel,” he then asks, alluding to the Madrid and London bombings, “what logical consequence followed from the support of the Spanish and British conservatives for the Iraq war?”
The upshot of Harrach’s video warning appears to be that Germans should vote out Chancellor Merkel and her Christian Democrats next Sunday if they want to avoid an attack on German soil. Whereas the chancellor has been unwavering in her support for the Afghanistan mission, her Social Democratic opponent, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, recently announced that if he becomes Chancellor he will establish a “concrete plan of action” for the withdrawal of German troops. (See my PJM report here.) Citing German historical precedents, the poor showing of the Social Democrats in June’s EU elections, and their weak poll numbers, Harrach predicts that Merkel will in fact be reelected. “If this prognosis should prove correct,” he continues, “then the prospects for the German people are bitter.” If the voters do not make the right choice, he warns further on, then “there will be a rude awakening after the elections.”
The German Ministry of the Interior has found that the Harrach video is “authentic.” It should be noted, however, that it displays numerous anomalies as compared to known al-Qaeda videos or even as compared to earlier al-Qaeda videos in which Harrach is supposed to have appeared. In the earlier videos, Harrach, or the person identified as such, appears dressed in military garb and with his face veiled. (In one of the videos, we in fact only see a still picture of him.) In the current video, he not only appears with his face uncovered, but he is clean-shaven — and wearing a jacket and tie to boot! Moreover, the current video is preceded by the rather odd phrase “al-Qaeda Presents.” It does not bear the standard insignia of al-Qaeda’s media arm As-Sahab.
(The video can be viewed here.)