What a Dutch communist accomplished in 1933 with a few bundles of inflammable material and matches, an Austrian convert to Islam was planning to do in 2011 with an airliner full of innocent people: destroy the German Reichstag in Berlin.
The Austrian newspaper Neue Kronen Zeitung reported last week that a 25-year-old Austrian Islamist was arrested on Wednesday, June 15, at his apartment in Vienna for plotting a terrorist attack on the Reichstag, Germany's parliament. Identified according to Austrian privacy laws by only his first name and initial, the newspaper said Thomas M. had planned the attack for months and intended to shock the world like 9/11.
"The devilish idea was said to have been worked out to the last detail," the paper stated.
Thomas M. was also reported to be a member of the German Taliban Mujahideen (DTM), whose members are known to have travelled to terrorist training camps in Pakistan. DTM is believed to be an offshoot of the Islamic Jihad Union, another terrorist organization located in the Pakistan-Afghanistan region that has recruited in Germany in the past. DTM members have attacked NATO and Pakistani troops and have had several members killed in the fighting. Eric Breininger, a German convert and perhaps the group's best known spokesman in Germany, was one of these fatalities.
Because of Germany's participation in the Afghan campaign, the country is a target for DTM as well as for other Islamic terrorists. Which would explain why the German parliament was targeted and not the Austrian. The fact Germany has been spared a devastating terrorist attack like those that have taken place in America, Spain and Great Britain is due, in part, to sheer luck. Bombs placed on two German commuter trains in 2006, for example, that would have caused an estimated several hundred casualties failed to explode simply because they were not rigged properly.
To prepare for his day of infamy, the Austrian terrorist allegedly spent hundreds of hours in front of a flight simulator learning how to steer an aircraft. One neighbor told the Neue Kronen that the time Thomas M. spent preparing his deadly plot accounts for why he hardly ever saw the accused, saying that Thomas M. rarely left his apartment, letting his wife do all the shopping. Thomas M., a father of two, also lived only a five-minute walk from convicted al-Qaeda adherent and "terror godfather" Mohamed M., although no connection between the two has yet been reported. At this point in time, the Austrian convert has been charged with supporting a terrorist organization financially and as a recruiter.
The same day Thomas M. was arrested, three people he had recruited were taken into custody by police at Vienna's airport. Another 25-year-old Austrian convert and two others with asylum status in Austria, one a woman, were believed to have been on their way to terrorist training camps in Pakistan when they were stopped. The three have since been released, since there were no grounds to hold them. According to Austrian law, a person who has trained in a terrorist camp can receive up to five years in prison.
All four suspects arrested last week were subjects of a months-long investigation by both German and Austrian authorities. Thomas M.'s arrest, according to a German newspaper report, is connected to an Austrian citizen's arrest in Berlin last month. Maqsood L., also a suspected DTM member, had travelled to Berlin to recruit "potential fighters." The German prosecutor's office is currently investigating Maqsood for having participated in a terrorist attack.
Turkish-German DTM member Yousuf O., who was arrested on an international arrest warrant in Vienna in May, is also being investigated for taking part in a terrorist attack. A resident of Berlin, Yousef O. was one of about 50 German citizens, some of them with wives and children, who moved to Taliban terrorist training camps in Waziristan. Like the others, he was answering "the calls of the DTM to German Muslims to join the Holy War." According to a Berlin newspaper, when in the Afghan-Pakistan badlands, Yousuf had appeared in several propaganda videos with covered face, speaking German. The Neue Kronen states Yousuf had contact with Thomas M. when in Vienna.
Prosecutors in Germany and Austria disagree, however, on whether Thomas M. was actually planning to attack the German parliament. While the speaker for Austria's interior ministry would not comment on the plot to destroy Germany's Reichstag for the second time in its history, the Viennese public prosecutor's office is continuing its investigation in this direction. But a German public prosecutor said that while "the suspicion originally existed [for the attack], the results of the present investigation do not however confirm it." But German investigators, the prosecutor said, would not exclude the possibility of a terrorist plot against the Reichstag, since the investigation was just beginning.
Playing down the threat of a terrorist attack against the Reichstag is nothing new for German authorities. Last fall, German security officials feared a storming of the parliament building by an Islamist terrorist commando that was reported to include German converts, causing the building's temporary closure. The plan was to take hostages and cause a bloodbath. Another version of the plot, reported in German papers, was a bomb attack using a cell phone to set off the explosion. After these reports, German officials went to work to soothe the public.
"There is no reason to panic," said the president of Federal Crime Office (Germany's FBI) at the time. "There is no reason to cancel any public event. I'm going in any case with my children to the Christmas market."
But an attack on the German Reichstag was, and is, a distinct possibility. Next to passenger airplanes and commuter trains, embassies and parliament buildings seem to hold a fascination for al-Qaeda and its death cult allies. Islamist terrorists have attacked the parliaments of India and Kashmir, while an al-Qaeda inspired group in Toronto was going to attack the Canadian parliament in Ottawa with the added touch of beheading the Canadian prime minister afterwards.
In perhaps the most horrific Islamist plot involving a national legislature, the Ugandan newspaper The Monitor reported in 2007 that an Islamist terrorist group was going to attack Uganda's parliament and assassinate Queen Elizabeth, when she was making a speech there. The terrorists were going to steal two Uganda Broadcasting Corporation vans and use them to gain access to the venue. But God, and good security, saved the Queen.
Like the above-mentioned plots, an attack on the Reichstag would have garnered sensational worldwide media attention for the Islamists while emphasizing the vulnerability of the civilized world and its prized institutions. Another sensational and underreported al-Qaeda terrorist plot, believed to have been personally drawn up by the late and greatly unlamented Osama bin Laden, had the same goal. Al-Qaeda-linked Algerian terrorists planned to assassinate English soccer star David Beckham and murder the American national soccer team in its hotel during the 1998 World Cup in France.
An Islamist terrorist attack on the Reichstag, if successful, would also have an effect that no one could ever properly evaluate. Thankfully, timely intervention by competent intelligence officials prevented any such catastrophe. But as long as al-Qaeda and its murderous allies and converts are still around, vigilance will always be the watchword.