Top German intelligence official urges ongoing pressure on terror networks
Affected Countries: germany;
A top German intelligence official who earned the moniker “Mr. Hezbollah” has urged Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government, as well as the global community, to not let up on pressure targeting international and domestic terrorism.
Gerhard Conrad, who formerly worked for the Federal Intelligence Service in the Arab world, told the paper Welt am Sonntag last week that the pressure must continue on terrorism structures, adding that “the direct and indirect effects of the pandemic on the stability of the countries concerned worldwide deserve special attention.”
His name is probably an alias due to his work as a top spy for the federal republic. Conrad earned the moniker “Mr. Hezbollah” within German intelligence circles because of his talks to secure prisoner swaps with the Lebanon-based Shi’ite terrorist group. He retired from espionage in November but continues training programs for intelligence officials.
The two terrorist groups Islamic State (ISIS) and al-Qaida view the coronavirus crisis as an opportunity to attack targets. In its al-Naba newsletter in mid-March, ISIS called on its terrorists to carry out attacks.
Western countries, however, have not followed Conrad’s advice. France announced that it will withdraw stationed soldiers in Iraq. The German government is shaving its numbers of soldiers in Iraq.
Conrad told the German paper that “The virus crisis poses a threat to the stability and security of many countries.”
The virus could weaken security structures and lead to strengthened terrorist networks, he added.
Merkel has faced intense pressure from the US and Israel to ban the entire terrorist entity Hezbollah in Germany, where 1,050 Hezbollah members and supporters operate. She has refused to outlaw the Lebanese Shi’ite entity within the borders of Germany.
The former security coordinator for late chancellor Helmut Kohl’s government, Bernd Schmidbauer, told the paper: “I will write to Angela Merkel in the next few days and ask her to step up the activities of the security authorities.”
Schmidbauer called for a change of strategy to conform the foreign security service to the coronavirus crisis. “All information related to the pandemic is now extremely important for Germany,” he said, adding that “the danger from extremists and terrorists who want to exploit such a situation for their own purposes is particularly great.”
He cited the dangers of “networks in the Maghreb countries and in the Middle East. In addition, the virus crisis could result in a new wave of refugees to Europe.”
Conrad said there should also be a focus on “disinformation campaigns” carried out by states in connection with the deadly virus. Germany’s domestic intelligence agency told the paper that one of its “priorities” is to monitor the coronavirus in its designated assignment areas.
Conrad was accused of dropping his mediator’s neutrality in 2008 when he sealed a deal gaining the release of the bodies of two IDF reservists, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, for the freedom of five terrorists, including the child-murderer Samir Kuntar.
The Gilad Schalit prisoner exchange process was also a controversial process for Conrad. Fox News reported in late 2009 that an Israeli source close to the Netanyahu government and the Schalit negotiations said that Conrad “seems to be more favorable to Hamas, possibly because of Germany’s economic ties with Iran, known to be Hamas’s financial and ideological backer.”
In 2011, Schalit gained his freedom from his Hamas captors in exchange for Israel releasing 1,027 terrorists and prisoners.