The German state security goes to great lengths to keep an eye on 531 threats. Hakan S. is one of them, he was about to commit an attack in Cologne. Years later, the fugitive seems to be on the right track.

The demolitions instructor began his lecture with a flowery introduction: people would talk about stuffed bodies in order to help the mujahideen’s holy warriors.

On August 19, 2016, the teacher became specific in the conspiratorial chat of the messenger service Telegram: Today it is about “personnel bombs and bombs against people”. The filled body must consist of a metal cylinder, the expert continued.

“The wave of the explosion always runs in the opposite direction of the detonator”, which is why it is attached at the back. He then explained the further structure of a home-made bomb up to the explosives and a filling “made of metal chips/nails or metal balls.”

Images of alleged martyrs from the terrorist militia “Islamic State” (IS) along with calls to fight the infidels underscored the explosive lesson.

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One of the students in the closed jihadist forum was the 16-year-old Syrian war refugee Hakan S. (name changed) in Cologne. Within months, the IS agitators radicalized him via social networks.

Finally, on September 18, a mentor named “Bilal” is said to have given him the order: “Make bombs and have them explode near you….Throw them in the garbage in their meeting houses.” Hakan S. did the same called. He began collecting parts for the bomb-making before the special task force arrested him in a refugee home.

In April 2017, the juvenile court sentenced the Islamist to two years without probation. The regional court assumed that the attack plans had not yet progressed far. A mistake. In prison, Hakan S. revealed his true intentions.

The prisoner admitted: “If you hadn’t caught me, I would have done it.” To this day, the Cologne state security officers are convinced that they thwarted the first Islamist attack in the cathedral city.

According to FOCUS online information, Hakan S. had to serve the full prison sentence. In prison he had attacked guards, and radical Islamist slogans were also found on the walls of his cell. In 2019, Hakan S. should come out again.

The Cologne police had long since classified the fanatic as a threat. That means: Hakan S. could pose a potential terrorist threat. Just like around 50 other Islamist extremists in the Cologne police district, which extends from the Oberberg district to Aachen.

And, as is so often the case, the Rhenish state security officers organized a close-knit surveillance network for Hakan S. The palette ranged from electronic ankle bracelets to a residence restriction to a district in a Cologne district on the right bank of the Rhine.

After the 18-year-old Syrian was released, an observation team was on his heels. In technical jargon one speaks of a 24/7. A 24/7 surveillance operation that requires 20 to 30 specially trained responders.

Discharged militant Islamists usually use the large cutlery to see whether the target person is drifting back into the radical Islamic Salafist scene. Telephone and video surveillance run longer.

Cologne’s criminal director Michael Esser observes with concern that “the number of convicted Islamist terrorists being released from prison is increasing”. These people are initially the focus of attention of the responsible state security agencies.

Even before the release, the officials in case conferences check how the delinquent behaved in prison. Did he become more radical or did the prisoner take part in a dropout program?

Have violent or other incidents been recorded? “When these people come out, we have to check whether they are still people who still pose a threat or not,” explains Esser.

Hakan S. is the typical example of the enormous effort that German state security officers have to put in to keep an eye on 531 threats, according to the Federal Criminal Police Office in Germany. Almost every third person comes from North Rhine-Westphalia.

And with each individual, the state security officers regularly check security conferences with constitutional protection officers, JVA officials, social workers or probation officers to get a feeling for the target person.

The effort is enormous and extremely cost-intensive. But the local security authorities want to use all their might to prevent another terrorist attack like that of the Tunisian Islamist Anis Amri in Berlin in 2016, which left eleven dead.

Even if the experts in the Cologne Presidium are under no illusions: “No matter how well we can monitor people, that does not mean that we will prevent every attack.”

Nevertheless, the Cologne state guards are trying to hang the anti-terror umbrella as high as possible. In doing so, they use a method that is quite controversial in police expert circles. Every month, the responsible clerks stand in front of their candidates’ door to make it clear to them that they are not left out of their sight.

While other federal states only rely on covert surveillance measures, the people of Cologne are aggressively approaching their protégés. The response is different, they say. “Some react aggressively and defensively, some invite the officers to have a chat over tea.” The psychological effect is important: the delinquents know that the police are always keeping them on the radar.

With Hakan S. everything seems to be going well. In a new project with the city of Cologne, the state guards have developed a special aid package for the young Syrian. Initially, the municipal administration had expressed concerns.

It was about the cost. But then the responsible authorities played along because the police were able to make it clear that the integration of militant Islamists is also a task for society as a whole.

A care package was put together for the released prisoner. The city procured an apartment and ensured a new start. As it turned out in the JVA that Hakan S. was suffering from a psychosis, the asylum seeker received appropriate help.

From the point of view of the police, the case represents a paradigm shift. “We are working on a concept to carry out similar promising measures with the help of the city of Cologne and other municipalities,” reports Criminal Director Esser.

Today, the former budding terrorist bomber seems to be on the right track. His monitors no longer found contacts in the Islamist scene or chatting on relevant sites. If Hakan S. stays on the path, sooner or later he is likely to fall out of the threat file.