Germany seeks to screen army recruits to combat Islamist infiltration

Germany's Defence Ministry is preparing a draft law to combat the recruitment of Islamists into the Bundeswehr amid fears the army could be infiltrated by militants seeking weapons training for use in fighting for extremist groups such as Islamic State.

The draft law, set to be presented to the government later this month, foresees background checks on all potential army recruits. There are currently no prior checks for soldiers, except those seeking to work with classified documents or in sensitive areas.

According to the country's military counterintelligence service MAD, 29 former Bundeswehr soldiers have travelled to Syria and Iraq to fight alongside extremist groups including Islamic State.

MAD is currently investigating 65 active soldiers on suspicion of Islamist tendencies.

Since 2007, the army itself has identified 22 soldiers as Islamists, all of whom have either been fired or left the army of their own accord.

"Like all armies, the Bundeswehr can be attractive to Islamists seeking weapons training," said Hans-Peter Bartels, the parliamentary commissioner for the armed forces, adding that Islamists in the German army pose "a real danger that needs to be taken seriously."

Bartels said that he was not currently aware of systematic efforts by Islamist militant organizations to infiltrate the Bundeswehr.

Germany is one of several western European countries concerned about its citizens - often with a Muslim immigrant background - joining Islamist insurgencies in other countries and later posing a security risk at home.

Last update: Tue, 12/04/2016 - 11:33

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