Abstract: An alleged terror plot by a Tajik Islamic State cell to attack U.S. and NATO military bases in Germany, which was thwarted by German police in April 2020, highlights the counterterrorism challenges posed by the radicalization of a small proportion of Central Asian migrants in Europe. It also demonstrates that despite its territorial defeat in Iraq and Syria, the Islamic State retains the ambition and ability to generate plots by mobilizing clandestine cells in Europe. The arrested cell members developed contacts in transnational organized crime and became involved in unusual methods of fundraising, such as bounty hunting and murder-for-hire operations. The case sheds light on the evolving networking between Central Asian and Chechen radical and criminal elements in Europe.

In mid-April 2020, German authorities detained four Tajik nationals over an Islamic State-linked terrorist conspiracy to attack a variety of targets including U.S. and NATO military facilities and personnel stationed in the country. According to the Federal Public Prosecutor’s Office, the arrested men were members of a terrorist cell that was in regular contact with two senior Islamic State militants—one of whom was based in Syria and the other in Afghanistan—from whom they received instructions. Allegedly, the cell members initially considered an attack in Tajikistan, but ultimately switched their focus to Germany after being convinced by their Islamic State contact and mentor in Syria, an operative known as “Abu Fatima,” to “God willing, perform the jihad in the area where you are!”1

It is alleged Abu Fatima issued this order to the ringleader of the cell through a voice message sent through the messaging app Telegram before the ringleader was arrested in Germany in March 2019.2 Reportedly, Islamic State “leadership” rejected a plan by the cell members to travel to Syria, and urged them to fight in Europe, describing it as a “place of evil.”3

While the attacks were not planned for the immediate future, at the time of their arrest, the cell members had already allegedly ordered (but not yet received) bomb parts online,a and were stocking up on firearms, precursor chemicals, and ammunition.4 Their alleged plan was to attack the U.S. air base in Spangdahlem and the NATO AWACSb air base near Geilenkirchen,5 possibly with remote-controlled drones or paragliders armed with explosives.6 The wife of one suspect had reportedly called a flight school in Bitburg, a town in Rhineland-Palatinate, which is about 12 kilometers away from the Geilenkirchen air base, and expressed her interest in attending paragliding courses.7 c The plot against the air bases was just one of several attacks the group was plotting. As outlined below, the other plots reportedly included setting off a gas explosion in a specially rented residential apartment and two separate murder-for-hire operations in Albania and Germany.

It is alleged that in the course of their attack plotting, the cell members downloaded several bomb-making manuals from Telegram channels allegedly linked to the Islamic State.8 With those manuals and the ammunition and detonators that they allegedly had already ordered online but had not yet received, they were exploring various ways of making and using homemade explosives for their alleged planned attack.9 However, the plotters did not have sufficient skills and expertise on how to properly put together the necessary components.10 In order to troubleshoot, they reportedly planned to conduct tests on their explosives in the deep forest once all the ingredients were available.11

It is alleged that the suspects were learning from the downloaded online manuals about how to carry out an assassination by poisoning and looked into chemical artillery shells and dropping munitions from drones.12 Their online purchase orders reportedly included a gas pressure regulator and welding glue.13 It was reported that the cell was planning to heed recent online propaganda calls by Islamic State leadership for supporters to carry out gas explosions in specially rented apartments and kill as many victims as possible.14

The arrestees are also accused of raising and channeling funds to the Islamic State’s core organization in Syria. Motivated in part by this fundraising drive, the quartet had reportedly planned to assassinate Amir Masoud Arabpour,15 an Iranian-born Christian convert ‘vlogger’ in the German North Rhine-Westphalia city of Neuss, whom they deemed to be a public critic of Islam.16 Reportedly, the assassination plan was hatched to earn a bounty for the victim’s murder by his Islamist enemies.17 In addition, the cell members are suspected of conspiring with Russian-born Chechens from Austria18 to murder a businessman in Albania for USD$40,000, which was offered by an unidentified person from Sweden. Ultimately, both alleged murder schemes failed.19

Four of the suspects, who have only been partially identified as Azizjon B., Muhammadali G., Farhodshoh K. and Sunatullokh K. in accordance with German legal tradition, were arrested in April 2020 during a series of raids conducted by tactical police units at multiple locations in the western German state of North Rhine Westphalia.20 The counterterrorism operation, codenamed “Takim,”21 involved as many as 350 police officers22 (Since then, the plotters have been referred by German authorities as the “Takim cell.”23) Around two weeks later, Albanian security agencies arrested another Tajik citizen, Komron Zukhurov, in Tirana and subsequently deported him to Germany under an international arrest warrant issued by a German federal court in connection with his alleged involvement in the terror plot.24 On September 22, 2020, the alleged ringleader was brought before the Higher Regional Court in Düsseldorf to start trial proceedings, with a verdict expected in late January 2021. The other defendants are set to be tried in a different procedure.25

Commenting on the thwarted plot in an interview published in the August 2020 issue of this publication, the European Union’s Counter-terrorism Coordinator Gilles de Kerchove stated that “this plot shows, once again, that we should remain vigilant about the threat of Daesh [Islamic State] attacks in Europe and that the threat does not come only from individuals who are inspired by terrorist propaganda online and act independently. Daesh continues to seek contact with potential attackers in Europe whenever it spots an opportunity to do so, to guide them in their attack plans.”26

There are several interesting aspects of the disrupted Islamic State plotting in Germany that are worth analyzing. But, as this article will outline, the most striking feature is that the attack cell in Germany was allegedly operating under the guidance of the same Tajik and Russian Islamic State senior operatives who authorized and directed the April 2017 truck-ramming attack in the Swedish capital of Stockholm from their hideouts in Syria. A more detailed study of the Stockholm attack and the Central Asian threat nexus can be found in an article published by Damon Mehl in the November 2018 issue of this publication.27

Similar to the Stockholm case, the suspects in this recent set of arrests were Tajik-speaking Central Asian migrantsd who had been residing in Germany for quite a while, with no travel history to conflict zones. Although the attack plans in Germany were discovered and thwarted successfully, the attack in Sweden, unfortunately, was not prevented.

Drawing on a wide range of local and foreign news sources as well as German court documents and reports about trial proceedings, this article provides a case study of the Takim cell by first examining the links between the alleged cell and Islamic State operatives in Syria and Afghanistan. It then analyzes the alleged cell’s pathway to terror, its links to previous terrorist activity within Germany, and the extremist environment in which the Tajik cell emerged and operated. Next, the article looks at the likely reasons why Germany was the target of the plot. The article then examines the alleged cell’s transnational web of jihadi and criminal contacts and its alleged attempts to finance its activities by involving itself in contract killing. The article concludes by highlighting how the Islamic State is eyeing Muslim migrant communities to expand its presence and fundraising activities across Europe.

Links to Islamic State Operatives in Syria and Afghanistan
The alleged ringleader of the Tajik Cell was arrested more than a year before the others. German prosecutors reportedly believe a Tajik national, identified by Radio Free Europe as “Ravshan Boqiev,” was the leader of the cell and a contact person between the cell and the Islamic State.28 The 30-year-old Boqiev has been in pre-trial custody since police discovered two firearms in his apartment in the city of Wuppertal on March 15, 2019.29 Prior to his arrest, he had reportedly downloaded several bomb-making manuals from Islamic State-related channels on Telegram and distributed them to his accomplices.30 e

According to the author’s review of German court documents and various news reports on the case, it appears that much of the plotting had already come together by the time of Boqiev’s arrest. However, in mid-March 2019, investigators reportedly knew only part of the cell’s structure, plans, and its connections.31 German authorities stated that many details about the Takim cell and their plotting were revealed to them after Boqiev began to cooperate with investigators in December 2019.32 They also managed to extract significant data from Boqiev’s personal mobile phone, including audio and text messages that he exchanged with Abu Fatima and others, as Boqiev had not been able to delete them before his arrest.33 After Boqiev’s arrest and subsequent police investigations of his potential accomplices, other cell members reportedly became extremely cautious and secretive,34 but they allegedly continued to pursue their attack plans while spying out for potential targets (the U.S. and NATO air bases), booking paragliding courses and waiting for the delivery of bomb parts that they ordered online. However, based on publicly available information, it remains unclear whether after the cell ringleader’s detention, the cell still maintained contacts with its Islamic State handlers in Afghanistan and Syria.

Boqiev had reportedly been in regular contact with the Islamic State since he first communicated with Abu Fatima via the encrypted messaging app Telegram in January 2019.35 Soon afterward, reportedly upon the instructions of Abu Fatima, Boqiev brought together at least four like-minded associates from his Tajik social circle and formed a cell. He also reportedly pledged allegiance to then Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.36 As German press has noted, Boqiev was probably the only person within the Takim cell with whom Abu Fatima was in contact, and the two were conducting all their communications through Telegram since their first connection via the same digital platform.37

Abu Fatima is known to be the nom de guerre of Arsen Mukhazhirov, a 33-year-old Islamic State operative from Russia’s Dagestan republic, whose name appears on Interpol’s wanted list.38 He has performed a prominent role in the Islamic State hierarchy. The Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet reported that, as a Russian-speaker, Abu Fatima has been in charge of recruitment of new members among Russian-speaking online communities, including Central Asians.39 He has also reportedly run fundraising drives on various cyber platforms.40 Swedish authorities established that Abu Fatima recruited Rakhmat Akilov, an Uzbek national of Tajik origin, for the attack in Stockholm.41 According to news reports, Abu Fatima in coordination with two jihadi comrades from Tajikistan in Syria, namely Tojiddin Nazarov, guided the Stockholm truck attacker Akilov throughout the operation via online communication apps Telegram and Zello.42

Abu Fatima is known to operate under the hierarchy of Gulmurod Khalimov,43 Tajikistan’s former police special operations commander, who defected to the Islamic State in May 2015 and replaced Abu Omar al-Shishani (killed in July 2016) as the group‘s “War Minister” in Syria.44 According to Tajik security authorities, Khalimov once commanded a unit of 200 fighters in Syria, including 50 Europeans, that was in charge of carrying out attacks in Europe and Central Asia.45 Given his high-ranking position in the terrorist network and connections to Abu Fatima and the above-mentioned Tojiddin Nazarov and Farhod Hasanov in Syria, there is good reason to assume that Khalimov might have authorized the German plot as well. As Damon Mehl has noted, “Khalimov is the highest-profile Tajik citizen to have joined the Islamic State.”46 In September 2016, the U.S. State Department designated Khalimov as a “specially designated global terrorist” and announced a USD$3 million reward for information on him.47

There have been conflicting reports on the fate of Khalimov since he last appeared publicly in an online propaganda video about four years ago. In January 2019, security authorities in Tajikistan assessed that Khalimov and some of his associates had relocated to Afghanistan’s northeastern province of Badakhshan.48 However, a United Nations report from July 2019 indicated that Khalimov was in Syria’s Idlib province with 600 Tajik fighters under his command but had lost his position as the “minister of war.”49 Recently, in August 2020, Tajikistan’s Minister of Internal Affairs, Ramazon Rahimzoda Hamro, stated that some Islamic State Tajik fighters who had returned home from Syria testified to his ministry that Khalimov and his family had been killed in an airstrike in Syria. The minister highlighted that in accordance with existing legislation, without hard evidence that is obtained through methods such as identification of human remains, such testimonies are not sufficient to officially announce someone dead.50 So, whether Khalimov has actually been killed or is hiding elsewhere will only become clear with time. If Khalimov really did relocate, it raises the question over whether he might be the senior Islamic State operative in Afghanistan who German authorities stated was communicating with the cell.51

There are reasons to be skeptical of this. German prosecutors have described the cell’s contact in Afghanistan as a high-ranking Islamic State member and “religious preacher,” who gave a series of radical lectures to the Tajik cell via the encrypted communication platform Zello.52 According to court documents, this militant issued “specific guidelines” for “the attack” planned by the cell in Germany.53 The description of the cell’s Afghan contact as a “religious preacher” would suggest Khalimov is not the Islamic State operative in Afghanistan in question. As a professional military sniper, Khalimov rose to lead the police special forces and has never been known to have religious training or engage in preaching activities.

Although there is no open-source information that Takim cell’s interlocutor in Afghanistan was Tajik, it is worth noting some Tajiks have risen to senior roles in the Islamic State in Afghanistan. A United Nations report from July 2019 identified Sayvaly Shafiev (alias “Mauaviya” or “Jalolobodi”) as the commander of the main unit of 200 Central Asian fighters that fight under the umbrella of the Islamic State’s Afghanistan-based affiliate, Islamic State Khorasan (ISK).54 While operating from ISK’s major stronghold in the eastern Afghan province of Nangarhar, Shafiev is also believed to be a member of the ISK executive council, or shura. In addition, he is known to have recruited other Tajik fighters for ISK as well as taking part in online propaganda and fundraising activities.55

Most recent official estimates indicate that about 2,000 Tajiks have left for Syria and Iraq to join various jihadi groups.56 Of the total reported number (2,000), about 1,000 Tajiks have been killed on the battlefield,57 163 have voluntarily returned home,58 and 500 others, including their families, have been captured (or surrendered) and placed in detention facilities across Syria and Iraq.59 Tajik authorities have so far repatriated 90 minors from Iraq.60 However, the fate and location of a sizable proportion of the surviving fighters remains uncertain. It also should be noted that as most Tajik and Central Asian militant groups are based in Afghanistan and Syria, such organized entities presently have no visible operational foothold in much of Tajikistan. Nevertheless, what the United Nations reported about the emergence of a large Central Asian unit within ISK under the command of a Tajik militant and Khalimov’s possible relocation to Afghanistan raises concerns about an increased terror threat to Tajikistan.

A sign of the U.S. Air Force Spangdahlem Air Base is seen near the main gate in the Eifel region in Spangdahlem near Bitburg, Germany, on July 30, 2020. (Wolfgang Rattay/Reuters)

Pathway to Terror
Although all the suspects are Tajik citizens who were residing in Germany as migrants, much remains unclear about their exact path toward radicalization. What is known is that none of the arrested plotters had ever traveled to jihadi conflict zones. Investigations have revealed that Boqiev and his accomplices were exposed to radical ideologies, in part through their personal interactions with some radical elements within Syrian refugee and Turkish immigrant communities in Germany.61 Boqiev was born and grew up in the Tajik capital of Dushanbe prior to leaving for Russia, probably as a migrant laborer, several years ago.62 He relocated to Germany in 2011 with his mother and brother as an asylum seeker. While in Germany, Boqiev reportedly became addicted to gambling, which eventually led his wife to divorce him. According to Die Welt, the divorce, as a traumatic event, might have played some role in his radicalization.63

According to Der Spiegel, Boqiev (identified by the news magazine as Ravsan B.) had first appeared on the radar of German intelligence services a few months before his arrest. While tapping into the cell phone of a crime suspect from Moenchengladbach, a city in North Rhine-Westphalia, in December 2018, the local criminal police detected a suspicious conversation between certain Syrian refugees and Turkish individuals in Germany. Over the phone, the men talked about founding a “soccer team,” which would become a “martyr for faith.” Decoding the conversations revealed that they were talking about a different terror plot (henceforth this particular plot is referred by the author as “soccer team” plot), for which Boqiev and other Tajik fanatics were supposed to provide firearms, Der Spiegel reported.64 The men used the name of the Real Madrid football club as a synonym for the Islamic State.65

The Swiss Connection
There are close similarities between the “soccer team” plot and a plot in Germany reportedly described by a senior Swiss Islamic State operative during an interrogation. The interrogation was conducted with a Swiss-born Islamic State fighter Daniel D. after his capture by Kurdish forces in eastern Syria in June 2019.66 Considered a dangerous operative, Daniel D. was once part of the external operations arm of the Islamic State in Syria.67 He reportedly stated in an interrogation that in December 2018, the Islamic State had deployed a team of 11 fighters to Turkey, from where they were supposed to travel to Germany posing as refugees for cover, to carry out attacks there. The German newspaper Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger reported that the leader of the dispatched team probably had already established close contacts with the Takim cell, which was apparently spying out potential targets.68 Although no other details about the fate of the 11-man cell in Turkey have been revealed, and it is not publicly known whether they reached Germany, the Swiss Islamic State operative’s reported claims point toward the Islamic State cell deployed to Turkey having some links to the “soccer team” terror plot, which allegedly involved Syrian refugees and Turkish individuals as well as Boqiev and some of his associates.

Violent Extremism within the Tajik Diaspora
To understand the alleged radicalization to violence of the Takim cell, it is important to discuss the Islamist extremist milieus that likely influenced them and the wider challenge posed by radicalization within Tajik diaspora communities in Europe.

In recent years, radical ideologies have been gaining a greater foothold in Germany, in particular within immigrant and refugee communities. The country has accepted in more than one million refugees since 2015.69 German authorities have warned that some of these refugees are at risk for radicalization by 11,000 individuals in Germany assessed to be Islamist radicals as of April 2020, with 680 of these extremists assessed to be “particularly dangerous” because of their inclination toward violence. For the latter category, this was a five-fold increase since 2013.70 It is notable that the German state with the highest number of salafis is North Rhine Westphalia,71 where the alleged Tajik “Takim” plotters were operating.

German security agencies have long been aware that Islamist extremism was gaining traction among some members of the 6,300-strong Tajik migrant community and have worked to prevent potential threats from such individuals.72 In March 2019, police conducted anti-terrorism raids focused on Tajik migrants. As part of the operation, which came after a 19-year-old Tajik citizen slammed his car into a pedestrian area zone in the city of Essen, 11 individuals—predominantly Tajik citizens—were arrested at multiple locations in North Rhine-Westphalia and Baden-Württemberg, but all of them were subsequently released after the prosecutors did not find sufficient evidence warranting their further detention.73

There have also been cases in which battle-hardened Tajik Islamic State militants have entered Germany posing as refugees after fighting in Syria. A case in point was the June 2016 arrest by German authorities in North Rhine Westphalia of Mukhamadsaid Saidov, a Tajik national who had traveled to Germany from Syria.74 Although Saidov was not implicated in any specific attack plot in Germany, federal prosecutors alleged that he was a close associate of the senior Tajik Islamic State leader Gulmurod Khalimov.75 In July 2017, the Higher Regional Court of Düsseldorf sentenced Saidov to five years of imprisonment for fighting in the ranks of the Islamic State in Syria.76

According to the press release issued by the court, Saidov had traveled to Syria through Turkey in February 2015. There has been conflicting reporting on which country he started his journey to Syria from. According to Focus Online, a German-language news magazine, when Saidov started his trip to Syria, he had already been residing in Germany since his arrival from Tajikistan in February 2014. The news magazine reported that after Saidov’s application for refugee status was rejected by German authorities in July 2014, he and his wife ultimately decided to move to Syria through Turkey.77 However, another German newspaper Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger stated that Saidov’s journey to Syria was from Tajikistan via Turkey.78

In Syria, after completion of his ideological and military training, Saidov was deployed to perform guard duties in the areas that the Islamic State then controlled in the northern city of Raqqa. Saidov later was injured in one of the combat operations. Allegedly unfit for the fight, he then took on administrative tasks, while also appearing in several extremist propaganda videos calling on his compatriots to join the terrorist group.79 His case was a demonstration of the potential security risk posed to Europe by bogus asylum seekers.

In Europe, Germany, along with Poland, is among the top destination countries for Tajik migrants. Currently, Germany hosts about 5,600 Tajik migrants.80 Some have already been registered as refugees while others, such as Boqiev before his arrest, are classed as asylum seekers.f Some Tajiks, including one of Boqiev’s associates who was arrested in April 2020 in connection with the plot against U.S. and NATO military bases, Sunatullokh K., have moved to Europe in search of better economic and education opportunities. It should be noted that like all other Muslim migrant communities in Europe, the overwhelming majority of Tajik migrants are law-abiding and peaceful and do not have any association with terror groups and activities.

The 24-year-old Sunatullokh K. was born to and raised in a family with limited means in Tajikistan’s Khatlon province. In 2016, he decided to settle down in Germany after making several business trips there between 2012 and 2016 for the purpose of importing automobile parts to sell in a shop in Dushanbe. After relocating to Germany, Sunatullokh K. married a local German, who converted to Islam and changed her name. He also started attending a language teaching center to learn German. Until his arrest, Sunatullokh K. was still sending car parts from Germany to his business partner to sell in Tajikistan.81 While in Germany, the cell members apparently had no permanent job with stable income; they did mostly odd jobs, like working in a scrap yard.82

According to Tajik authorities, during the time they previously lived in Tajikistan, the Germany plotters had not shown any visible signs of radicalization.83 In the case of Boqiev, one question concerns whether his radicalization might have started when he lived in Russia before moving to Germany. Studies suggest that the Islamic State and other militant groups have long focused on radicalizing and recruiting among Central Asian migrant workers in Russia that include Tajiks.84 Official estimates from Tajikistan suggest that nearly 500,000 Tajik nationals visit Russia annually as seasonal foreign laborers.85

Tajik jihadis have become implicated in terror plotting in other countries besides Germany and Sweden. On May 7, 2020, security services in Poland detained four Tajik nationals who allegedly sympathized with the Islamic State and attempted to recruit Polish and Ukrainian converts to Islam to carry out attacks in Poland.86 In June 2020, the country’s Internal Security Agency (Agencja Bezpieczenstwa Wewnetrznego/ABW) in coordination with foreign counterparts detained and brought back a fifth suspect who had fled to an unspecified country in December 2019.87 The fifth suspect was allegedly planning to travel to Syria to join the jihadi fighting and establish a contact with a member of an al-Qa`ida-linked terrorist organization there. On September 28, 2020, all five of the Tajik detainees were deported to their country of origin, and their reentry to Poland and other Schengen Area member-states has been banned.88 To date, no suggestion has been made that the detainees in Poland had any links to the Takim attack cell in Germany. Stanislaw Zaryn, the spokesperson for Poland’s minister for the coordination of special services, said that the Tajiks detained in Poland “were inspired by ISIS … but they were not a part of the organisation.”89

Why Was Germany a Target?
Germany has been a target for both the Islamic State and al-Qa`ida, as well as their sympathizers, in particular because of its military alliance with the United States and involvement in international counterterrorism missions in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan. The Islamic State has repeatedly called on its members and supporters to strike international coalition countries fighting against the group in the Iraqi-Syrian theater as well as Tajikistan’s secular government.90

In recent years, Germany has seen several attacks linked to the Islamic State. The deadliest was in December 2016 when a Tunisian man drove a truck through a crowded Christmas market in Berlin, killing 12 people.91

The Islamic State has sought to attack the United States and its allies wherever possible. On July 29, 2018, five Tajik men killed four foreign cyclists—two Americans, a Swiss, and a Dutch national—in a car-ramming attack, accompanied by an on-foot gun and knife assault in the Khatlon province of Tajikistan.92

It is worth mentioning that plots with links to Central Asian networks of some sort date back to the “Sauerland-Group” (named after a region in North Rhine-Westphalia where it was operating), an attack cell that planned to bomb U.S. targets in Germany in September 2007, including Ramstein Air Base.93 Some members of the cell had been trained by the Islamic Jihad Union (IJU), an al-Qa`ida-linked Central Asian jihadi group that ran a training camp in the border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan back in those days. Notwithstanding the fact the thwarted IJU plot was hatched in a terrorist training camp in Pakistan,94 German authorities described it as a “home-grown jihadist threat” as the plotters were local German and Turkish residents.95 As has been noted by scholars, the Sauerland plot constituted both local and global threat dimensions: although the instructions to prepare the attack came from the militants based in Pakistan, the plotters themselves were in many ways examples of domestically radicalized individuals.96

Contract Killing
The alleged Tajik cell in Germany, which as outlined was connected to the Islamic State in Syria and Afghanistan, were linked to a blend of individuals from jihadi circles and organized crime circles in, or from, Albania, Austria, France,97 Russia, and Sweden.98

In order to finance the plot against the air bases, Boqiev allegedly involved his team as the hit men in a contract killing to assassinate a wealthy businessman for 36,000 euros (USD$40,000) in Albania.99 It is alleged that in late February 2019, Boqiev and his alleged associate in the Takim cell, Farhodshoh K., traveled to Austria where they met up with two Russia-born Chechens they knew, who provided them with a weapon with a silencer for the hit and helped transport them to Albania.100 But the operation fell apart because once they got to Albania, the hitmen failed to locate the victim, and they returned to Germany.101 Data recovered from Boqiev’s cell phone showed that the person who hired his team for the assassination had called him from Sweden.102 The caller from Sweden reportedly asked via voice message whether Boqiev could “bury a dirty man” for him. He also explained that half of the money would go “for the brothers,” by which he reportedly apparently meant Islamic State militants in Syria, but the rest could be kept by Boqiev and his companions in Germany.103 Boqiev accepted the contract. However, as of July 2020, investigators had not identified the caller from Sweden.104

As already noted, the Takim cell had a further connection to Albania. On April 30, 2020, one of the alleged members of the cell, the 24-year-old Tajik citizen named Komron Zukhurov, was arrested by Albanian anti-terrorism police in Tirana for alleged involvement in the plot in Germany. He had moved to Albania in February 2020 after living in Germany for two years.105 Authorities have not made clear what they believe his role in the attack network was. According to his lawyer, Zukhurov was visiting his paternal aunt who lives in Tirana.106

The Takim cell appears to have placed considerable value in (attempted) contract killing in order to try to raise funds to finance its activities in Germany as well as to funnel them to the Islamic State’s residual core organization in Syria. Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger reported that one of the reasons for the cell to conspire to murder Amir Masoud Arabpour, the aforementioned Iranian-born ‘vlogger’ from Neuss, was to earn a bounty of 5,000 euros, put up by his enemies.107 Arabpour has reportedly received numerous death threats in the past from Islamists deeming him a public critic of Islam and Muslims.108

The money appears not to have been the only motivation for the Takim cell members to get involved in this particular murder plot. According to Germany’s Public Prosecutor Office, the order for the plot came from their Islamic State mentor in Afghanistan,109 who had asked them to take pictures of the victim’s corpse after the execution of the murder plan and upload it online as a warning to “infidels.”110

It was reported that on March 14, 2019, Farhodshoh K. observed Arabpour as part of preparations for the murder plot, but lost track of him in a chase.111 As the security services were already tapping into the Takim cell members’ phone conversations, right after Farhodshoh’s surveillance of Arabpour, they manage to detect hints about the ongoing preparations for the potential murder scheme and immediately alerted a special task force to stop it.112 On the same evening, a special task force conducted a raid in Boqiev’s apartment and arrested him and an accompliceg and seized two firearms (Norinco 45 ACP and Zastava 32 ACP pistol models),113 thwarting the alleged assassination plan that would have involved shooting with those firearms.114 Authorities have also revealed that one of the weapons seized from Boqiev’s apartment was the pistol that they had brought along from Albania (it was the same firearm that was given by their Russian-born Chechen accomplices from Austria).115

During the raid and search of the Boqiev’s house on his day of arrest, investigators discovered evidence they deem sufficient to prove that the cell had transferred nearly 1,000 euros in two tranches to Abu Fatima116 through a financial agent in Turkey.117

The Takim cell also allegedly solicited funding from migrant workers in Germany. It is reported that many Chechens from France were working on a construction site in Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen, where the Porsche automobile company wanted to dismantle a paint shop over the turn of the year 2019/2020. One of the members of the Takim cell, through his relative who worked as subcontractor at that construction site, reportedly raised funds for an “imprisoned brother” from about 60 workers, many of whom were Chechens from France.118 Investigations have reportedly established that the recipients of the money were two Islamic State-linked individuals serving prison sentences in Austria who were acquaintances of one of the members of the Takim cell. One of those prisoners was reportedly a Chechen who was jailed after his attempts to travel to Syria, the other one was, according to authorities, the leader of an Islamic State cell in Austria.119 h A United Nations report from July 2020 sees the evolving networking between Central Asian and Chechen radical and criminal elements in Europe as a “source of ongoing concern.”120

Boqiev’s alleged involvement in the “soccer team” plot in Germany as a weapons supplier and his team’s later procurement of firearms from Chechens in Austria for the alleged murder plots in Albania and Germany show the Takim cell’s access to criminal networks through which these weapons can be acquired.

Notwithstanding existing strict gun regulations, Europe’s free borders make it difficult to stop the flow of illegal firearms, particularly from the Western Balkans, where up to six million small arms left over from the conflicts that raged there in the 1990s are reported to be in circulation.121 The culprits of the November 2015 Paris attacks acquired their rifles through criminal networks from the Balkans.122

The disrupted plot to target U.S. and NATO air bases and subsequent arrests in Germany and Albania makes clear that the Islamic State maintains clandestine cells across Europe that are in communication with Islamic State terrorist operatives abroad. This case study of the Takim cell suggests the group continues to eye recruitment opportunities among migrant communities to help drive and sustain its terrorist activities in Europe. The Islamic State has accordingly invested in online propaganda and recruitment efforts directed at segments within Central Asian and Russian (including Chechen) Muslim communities both in and outside their home countries, that might be vulnerable to radicalization.123

The Tajik attack network was a mix of two different dynamics: the Takim cell members were self-radicalized Islamic State supporters, and there were Islamic State terrorist operatives directing the cell’s activities from Afghanistan and Syria. The participation of members of diverse ethnic communities and nationalities in this network demonstrates that the multi-ethnic and transnational character of Islamic State networks in Europe. The case sheds light on how networks have formed between Tajik- and Russian-speaking foreign fighters (the Khalimov-Mukhazhirov tandem) within the Islamic State wing in Syria.

The Islamic State’s territorial defeat in Syria in March 2019 and the capture of aforementioned external operations planners such as Nazarovi and Daniel D., among others, have further weakened the group’s ability to mount large-scale attacks outside Syria and Iraq. Nonetheless, the Tajik attack and murder plots in Germany and Albania show that the Islamic State remains connected to its base of supporters and sympathizers abroad, and is still able to direct and inspire them to carry out attacks, providing the necessary operational guidance through dedicated online tutorials and communications via encrypted applications, particularly Telegram and Zello. Given the ultimate fates of Khalimov and Mukhazhirov remain unknown, there is need for strengthening cross-border cooperation and intelligence-sharing to track down and catch them if they are still alive. The attempted murder plan against Amir Masoud Arabpour shows that the plotters had a fairly significant operational security problem as their communications were being closely monitored by security services.

German investigators have conceded that it was difficult for them to find translators for recovered chats and telephone calls.124 The presence of large-scale Central Asian diaspora communities in Europe is a relatively new phenomenon. Thus, not all European countries appear to have sufficient understanding of languages, cultural sensitivities, grievances, and vulnerabilities of Central Asians Muslim minorities.

Given the fact that the Central Asian international diaspora is expanding, a risk of radicalization of a small minority of them poses long-term security concerns. Rising right-wing extremism and anti-immigration/Islamophobic sentiments in parts of Europe may also act as a radicalization driver in these communities, as narratives promoted by extreme right-wing and Islamist extremist actors may fuel extremist sentiments, societal divisions, and a vicious cycle of extreme right-wing and jihadi violence.125 Without proper understanding of such dynamics, efforts to integrate these communities into a broader society may suffer setbacks. It will also significantly degrade states’ ability to contain radicalization and to timely detect potential terror activities.

In his interview with CTC Sentinel in August 2020, the European Union’s counterterrorism coordinator de Kerchove stated that in the light of recent surge in cases of radicalization and terrorist attacks and plots involving Central Asian individuals in the West, the European Union has prioritized the development of stronger counterterrorism cooperation with Central Asian countries. According to de Kerchove, as part of such commitment, the European Union has supported a number of United Nations projects and also deployed a counterterrorism expert in the region.126

The problem set posed by the radicalization of individuals within Tajik and Central Asian diaspora communities in Europe and the transnational jihadi networks with links to organized crime they are plugging into requires significant attention from policymakers. It is important to develop contextualized and long-term preventive strategies against migrant radicalization. An important step is to adequately understand how Islamist extremist milieus sustain jihadi networks across Europe’s geographically and ethnically distinct Muslim migrant communities. Without a concerted policy response, the threat could grow. The thwarted Islamic State plot against U.S. and NATO air bases in Germany should be a wake-up call.     CTC

Nodirbek Soliev is a senior analyst at the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research (ICPVTR), a unit of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore. Follow @nodirsoliev

© 2021 Nodirbek Soliev

Substantive Notes
[a] According to the court indictment, the cell’s ringleader had obtained instructions on how to prepare explosives and detonating mechanisms, and some of the components required for this had already been purchased online. See “Anklage gegen mutmaßliches Mitglied einer Terrorzelle der ausländischen terroristischen Vereinigung ‘Islamischer Staat (IS)’ erhoben,” an official indictment issued by the Public Prosecutor Office of Germany, July 27, 2020, and “Ermittler heben IS-Zelle in NRW aus: Fünf Männer in Untersuchungshaft,” Schweriner Volkszeitung, April 15, 2020.

[b] “AWACS, abbreviation of Airborne Warning And Control System, a mobile, long-range radar surveillance and control centre for air defense. The system, as developed by the U.S. Air Force, is mounted in a specially modified Boeing 707 aircraft.” Encyclopaedia Britannica.

[c] Although rare, there have possibly previously been plans by other groups to carry out aerial attacks with use of paragliders. For instance, in January 2010, Indian intelligence officials suspected that the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba terror group was planning an attack in India from the air, using suicide bombers flying paragliders. Rhys Blakely, “Terror group Lashkar e Taiba ‘planning paraglider attacks’ in India,” Times, January 25, 2010. In August 2012, Spanish security agencies reportedly thwarted a plot by a Turkish national and two Russian (Chechen) individuals with suspected links to al-Qa`ida to carry out an attack in Gibraltar, possibly with a motorized paraglider. George Mills, “Paragliding terrorist arrested in Spain,” Local, August 9, 2013; “MI6 helps foil terror plot as police find ‘enough explosives to blow up a bus,’” Times (London), August 3, 2012; Paul Cruickshank, “Spain ‘al Qaeda cell’ may have targeted Gibraltar,” CNN, August 6, 2012.

[d] It should be noted that while the perpetrator of the Stockholm truck attack was a Tajik-speaking Uzbek national, the disrupted Islamic State cell members in Germany included only Tajik citizens.

[e] It should be noted that in January 2021, German media reported that prosecutors had dropped charges against Boqiev relating to terrorist financing and the procurement of instructions for a terrorist attack. The reasons for that decision are not clear. He still faces the more serious charges relating to plotting terror attacks and murder. “Mehrere Jahre Haft für mutmaßlichen IS-Terroristen gefordert,” Westfälische Nachrichten, January 11, 2021.

[f] “An asylum seeker is someone who claims to be a refugee but whose claim has not been evaluated. This person would have applied for asylum on the grounds that returning to his or her country would lead to persecution on account of race, religion, nationality or political beliefs. Someone is an asylum seeker for so long as their application is pending. So not every asylum seeker will be recognized as a refugee, but every refugee is initially an asylum seeker.” “Refugees, Asylum Seekers & Migrants: A Crucial Difference,” Habitat for Humanity Great Britain.

[g] German authorities have not revealed the identity of the person who was arrested along with Boqiev.

[h] Authorities have not revealed the nationality/ethnicity of the imprisoned Islamic State cell leader in Austria.

[i] In January 2020, Tajik prosecutors revealed that Tojiddin Nazarov was being held in prisons in Syria, along with several other Tajik Islamic State militants, following capture by Kurdish forces. “Genprokuratura: iz tyurem Sirii v Tadzhikistan ekstradiruyut terroristov-verbovshchikov” [“Prosecutor General’s Office: terrorist recruiters to be extradited from prisons in Syria to Tajikistan”], Sputnik Tochikiston/Tajiki, January 28, 2020.

[1] Mumin Ahmadi, Makhmujon Rakhmatzoda, and Khiromon Bakozoda, “Rassledovaniye Radio Ozodi: po sledam zaderzhaniya pyati tadzhikov v Germanii” [“Radio Ozodi investigation: In the footsteps of the detention of five Tajiks in Germany”], Radio Ozodi – RFE/RL’s Tajik Service, April 21, 2020; Matthias Gebauer, “Traum vom Fliegen,” Der Spiegel, April 18, 2020; Axel Spilcker, “Logistiker des Terrors; Am OLG Düsseldorf beginnt der Prozess gegen tadschikischen Islamisten,” Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger, September 23, 2020.

[2] Ibid.

[3] “Europa als ‘Ort des Bösen’ angreifen; Islamischer Staat – Terrorzelle plante Anschläge in Deutschland und Albanien; Interesse an Flugschulen,” Schwarzwälder Bote, September 23, 2020.

[4] “Festnahme fünf mutmaßlicher Mitglieder einer Terrorzelle der ausländischen terroristischen Vereinigung ‘Islamischer Staat (IS),’” an arrest warrant, the Office of the German Federal Public Prosecutor, April 15, 2020; Candra Symonds, “ATA-trained Albanian State Police Arrest Suspected ISIS Terrorist Wanted in Germany,” U.S. Department of State, May 27, 2020.

[5] Axel Spilcker, “Zugriff nach Hinweis vom FBI,” Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger, September 8, 2020; Gebauer, “Traum vom Fliegen.”

[6] Axel Spilcker, “Anschläge in IS-Auftrag geplant; Fünf Mitglieder einer mutmaßlichen Terrorzelle in NRW festgenommen,” Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger, April 16, 2020.

[7] Matthias Gebauer, “Plante die Tadschiken-Zelle Anschläge mit Gleitschirmen?” Spiegel Plus, April 17, 2020.

[8] Spilcker, “Zugriff nach Hinweis vom FBI.”

[9] “Anklage gegen mutmaßliches Mitglied einer Terrorzelle der ausländischen terroristischen Vereinigung ‘Islamischer Staat (IS)’ erhoben;” “Tajik man faces IS-related terrorism charges in Germany,” Associated Press, July 21, 2020.

[10] Spilcker, “Anschläge in IS-Auftrag geplant.”

[11] Ibid.

[12] Spilcker, “Zugriff nach Hinweis vom FBI.”

[13] Gebauer, “Traum vom Fliegen.”

[14] Spilcker, “Zugriff nach Hinweis vom FBI.”

[15] A number of European news outlets, including Bild and Agence France-Presse – Deutsch, have identified Amir Masoud Arabpour as the victim. See Frank Schneider, “Als “Fußballteam” getarnt; Diese Festnahme führte zur Terrorzelle der Tadschiken,” Bild, May 24, 2020; “Ermittler haben IS-Zelle in Nordrhein-Westfalen aus – Festnahmen bei Großrazzia; Fünf Tadschiken sollen US-Basen und potenzielles Mordopfer ausgespäht haben,” Agence France-Presse – German, April 15, 2020.

[16] Benjamin Weinthal, “Islamic State cell planned to murder critic of Islam in Germany,” Jerusalem Post, April 27, 2020.

[17] Spilcker, “Logistiker des Terrors.”

[18] “Anklage gegen mutmaßliches Mitglied einer Terrorzelle der ausländischen terroristischen Vereinigung ‘Islamischer Staat (IS)’ erhoben.”

[19] Gebauer, “Traum vom Fliegen;” Spilcker, “Logistiker des Terrors.”

[20] “Festnahme fünf mutmaßlicher Mitglieder einer Terrorzelle der ausländischen terroristischen Vereinigung ‘Islamischer Staat (IS).’”

[21] Gebauer, “Traum vom Fliegen.”

[22] “Ermittler haben IS-Zelle in Nordrhein-Westfalen aus – Festnahmen bei Großrazzia; Fünf Tadschiken sollen US-Basen und potenzielles Mordopfer ausgespäht haben,” Agence France-Presse – German, April 15, 2020.

[23] Spilcker, “Zugriff nach Hinweis vom FBI.”

[24] Llazar Semini, “Tajik arrested in Albania ordered held in custody,” Associated Press, May 2, 2020; “Suspected ISIS Member Extradited to Germany,” Exit News, August 5, 2020.

[25] “Europa als ‘Ort des Bösen’ angreifen;” “Mehrere Jahre Haft für mutmaßlichen IS-Terroristen gefordert,” Westfälische Nachrichten, January 11, 2021.

[26] Raffaello Pantucci, “A View From the CT Foxhole: Gilles de Kerchove, European Union (EU) Counter-Terrorism Coordinator,” CTC Sentinel 13:8 (2020).

[27] Damon Mehl, “Converging Factors Signal Increasing Terror Threat to Tajikistan,” CTC Sentinel 11:10 (2018).

[28] Farangis Najibullah, Mumin Ahmadi, and Mahmudjon Rahmatzoda, “Tajik Father Stunned By Son’s Arrest In Germany On Terror Charges,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, April 22, 2020.

[29] Gebauer, “Traum vom Fliegen.”

[30] “Europa als ‘Ort des Bösen’ angreifen; Najibullah, Ahmadi, and Rahmatzoda.

[31] Ibrahim Naber, “‘Do Jihad in Germany’; Today the trial of an IS terror cell from NRW begins. They planned attacks – led by a known terrorist recruit,” Die Welt (English), September 22, 2020.

[32] Spilcker, “Logistiker des Terrors.”

[33] Naber, “‘Do Jihad in Germany.’”

[34] Frank Schneider, “Als “Fußballteam” getarnt; Diese Festnahme führte zur Terrorzelle der Tadschiken,” Bild, May 24, 2020.

[35] Spilcker, “Anschläge in IS-Auftrag geplant.”

[36] Gebauer, “Traum vom Fliegen;” Spilcker, “Logistiker des Terrors.”

[37] Gebauer, “Traum vom Fliegen;” Spilcker, “Zugriff nach Hinweis vom FBI;” Naber, “‘Do Jihad in Germany.’”

[38] Identity particulars of Arsen Mukhazhirov from the Interpol’s public Red Notices database of wanted fugitives; Sirojiddin Islom, “Ozodlik tekshiruvi xulosalari Shved matbuotining bosh xabariga aylandi” [“The findings of an investigation conducted by Ozodlik grabs the headlines of the Swedish press”], Ozodlik Radiosi – RFE/RL’s Uzbek Service, February 10, 2018.

[39] Anders Dalsbro, “Hjälpte Akilov i terror-planerna – samlar återigen in pengar till IS,” Expo, May 16, 2018.

[40] Ibid.

[41] Islom.

[42] “‘Abu Fotima’ godkände terrordådet i Stockholm,” Affärsliv, February 1, 2018; Islom; Mehl.

[43] “Myatezh? Net – terrorizm: v chem obvinyayut pyaterykh tadzhikistantsev v Germanii” [“Rebellion? No, terrorism: What are five Tajiks in Germany accused of”], Sputnik Tochikiston/Tajiki, April 16, 2020; Spilcker, “Anschläge in IS-Auftrag geplant.”

[44] Amir Abdallah, “Former Tajikistan police chief appointed ISIS minister of war,” Iraqi News, September 5, 2016.

[45] “Der Skandalfall al-Bakr. Und was Deutschland daraus lernt,” Focus Magazine, October 15, 2016.

[46] Mehl.

[47] “Gulmurod Khalimov,” Rewards for Justice, U.S. Department of State, September 2016.

[48] “Tadzhikskiy ‘igilovets’ Gulmurod Khalimov zainteresovalsya situatsiyey v Gornom Badakhshane” [“Tajik IS militant Gulmurod Khalimov became interested in the situation in Gorno-Badakhshan”], Fergana, January 11, 2019.

[49] “Twenty-fourth report of the Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team,” United Nations Security Council, July 15, 2019, p. 14.

[50] Avaz Yuldashev, “Glava MVD Tadzhikistana: Gibel’ eks-komandira OMON ostayetsya na urovne slukhov” [“Tajik Interior Minister: The death of the ex-OMON commander remains at the level of rumors”], Asia-Plus, August 4, 2020.

[51] “Germany arrests five men over suspected IS terror plot,” Local, April 15, 2020.

[52] Naber, “‘Do Jihad in Germany.’”

[53] “Anklage gegen mutmaßliches Mitglied einer Terrorzelle der ausländischen terroristischen Vereinigung ‘Islamischer Staat (IS)’ erhoben.”

[54] “Twenty-fourth report of the Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team,” p. 15.

[55] Ibid.

[56] Tokhir Safar and Mumin Ahmadi, “Istochniki: v Sirii arestovany tadzhikskiye ‘dzhikhadisty’ Abu Dovud i Abu Usama Noraki” [“Sources: Tajik ‘jihadists’ Abu Dovud and Abu Osama Noraki were arrested in Syria”], Radio Ozodi – RFE/RL’s Tajik Service, December 19, 2019.

[57] “Dushanbe aims to uncover secrets from extradited Tajik IS members,” Caravanserai, February 18, 2020.

[58] “MVD: pochti 300 grazhdan Tadzhikistana nezakonno izuchayut religiyu za rubezhom” [“The Ministry of Internal Affairs: almost 300 citizens of Tajikistan illegally study religion abroad”], Sputnik Tochikiston/Tajiki, November 26, 2018.

[59] “Glava MID rasskazal, skol’ko zhenshchin i detey iz Tadzhikistana ostalis’ v Sirii” [“Foreign Minister told how many women and children from Tajikistan remained in Syria”], Sputnik Tochikiston/Tajiki, February 18, 2020.

[60] Ibid.

[61] Gebauer, “Traum vom Fliegen.”

[62] Ahmadi, Rakhmatzoda, and Bakozoda.

[63] Naber, “‘Do Jihad in Germany.’”

[64] Gebauer, “Traum vom Fliegen.”

[65] Spilcker, “Zugriff nach Hinweis vom FBI.”

[66] Ibid.

[67] Boris Mabillard, “Comment le pire attentat prévu en Suisse a été déjoué à Genève,” Temps, February 12, 2020.

[68] Spilcker, “Zugriff nach Hinweis vom FBI.”

[69] “Germany arrests five men over suspected IS terror plot.”

[70] Ibid.

[71] Esther Felden and Matthias von Hein, “Invisible and dangerous: The Salafist scene in North Rhine-Westphalia,” Deutsche Welle, October 22, 2018.

[72] Schneider.

[73] “Germany: Police conduct major anti-terrorism operation,” Deutsche Welle, March 30, 2019.

[74] “Germaniya ne otvechayet na pros’bu Tadzhikistana o vydache ‘dzhikhadista’” [“Germany refuses to respond to Tajikistan’s request to extradite ‘jihadist’”], Radio Ozodi – RFE/RL’s Tajik Service, September 27, 2016.

[75] Willi Germund, “Henker des IS in NRW verhaftet; Der Tadschike Mukhamadsaid S. sagt vor den deutschen Behörden aus,” Kölnische Rundschau, June 29, 2016.

[76] “Haftstrafe im Verfahren gegen Mukhamadsaid S. wegen Mitgliedschaft in der ausländischen terroristischen Vereinigung ‘IS,’” a press release issued by the Higher Regional Court of Düsseldorf on July 13, 2017.

[77] Axel Spilcker, “Der zweite Treueschwur des Todes,” Focus Online, June 22, 2017.

[78] Willi Germund, “In NRW verhafteter Tadschike offenbar IS-Henker; TERRORISMUS Geheimdienste der USA wollen ihn befragen, um einen wichtigen Überläufer zu finden – Sein Heimatland fordert die Auslieferung,” Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger, June 29, 2016.

[79] “Islamic State suspect faces terrorism charges in Germany,” Washington Times, March 8, 2017.

[80] Khiromon Bakozoda, “5600 tadzhikistantsev v Germanii. Kto popadet pod readmissiyu?” [“5,600 Tajiks in Germany. Who will be subject to readmission?”], Radio Ozodi – RFE/RL’s Tajik Service, August 28, 2019.

[81] Ahmadi, Rakhmatzoda, and Bakozoda.

[82] Naber, “‘Do Jihad in Germany.’”

[83] Ibid.

[84] Zinaida Burskaya, “Doroga v IGIL Prolegla Cherez Moskvu” [“The road to ISIS ran through Moscow”], Novaya Gazeta, January 18, 2016.

[85] “Mintruda Tadzhikistana usomnilos v rossiyskoy statistike migrantov” [“The Ministry of Labor of Tajikistan questioned Russian statistics on migrants”], Sputnik Tochikiston/Tajiki, July 25, 2019.

[86] “Poland Deports Five Tajiks Suspected Of Terrorism,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, September 29, 2020; “Four Tajik men accused of militant recruitment in Poland,” Reuters, May 11, 2020.

[87] “Poland Deports Five Tajiks Suspected Of Terrorism.”

[88] Ibid.

[89] “Four Tajik men accused of militant recruitment in Poland.”

[90] Lizzie Dearden, “Isis calls on supporters to wage ‘all-out war’ on West during Ramadan with new terror attacks,” Independent, May 26, 2017; Josh Levs and Holly Yan, “Western allies reject ISIS leader’s threats against their civilians,” CNN, September 23, 2014; “Poslaniye boyevikov IGIL Prezidentu Tadzhikistana Emomali Rakhmonu” [“ISIS militants’ message to the President of Tajikistan Emomali Rahmon”], Akhbor, June 8, 2016.

[91] Georg Heil, “The Berlin Attack and the “Abu Walaa” Islamic State Recruitment Network,” CTC Sentinel 10:2 (2017); Frank Hofmann, “Berlin Christmas market attack: ‘We weren’t prepared,’” Deutsche Welle, December 19, 2017.

[92] Rukmini Callimachi, “A Dream Ended on a Mountain Road: The Cyclists and the ISIS Militants,” New York Times, August 7, 2018; Mehl.

[93] “Killing Germans is a duty, Sauerland cell terror suspect tells court,” Deutsche Welle, August 19, 2020; Nicholas Kulish, “Germany Sentences 4 in Terror Case,” New York Times, March 4, 2010.

[94] “Suspected leader of Sauerland terror cell confesses,” Deutsche Welle, August 10, 2009; “Central Eurasia and Central Asia Terrorism,” National Counterterrorism Center, via dni.gov.

[95] Quirine Eijkman, “The German Sauerland Cell Reconsidered,” Perspectives on Terrorism 8:4 (2014).

[96] Ibid.

[97] Spilcker, “Zugriff nach Hinweis vom FBI.”

[98] Gebauer, “Traum vom Fliegen.”

[99] Gebauer, “Traum vom Fliegen;” Spilcker, “Logistiker des Terrors.”

[100] “Festnahme fünf mutmaßlicher Mitglieder einer Terrorzelle der ausländischen terroristischen Vereinigung ‘Islamischer Staat (IS);’” “Anklage gegen mutmaßliches Mitglied einer Terrorzelle der ausländischen terroristischen Vereinigung ‘Islamischer Staat (IS)’ erhoben.”

[101] Spilcker, “Logistiker des Terrors.”

[102] Ibid.

[103] “Alleged Tajik terrorist arrested in Albania,” BBC, May 4, 2020.

[104] “Anklage gegen mutmaßliches Mitglied einer Terrorzelle der ausländischen terroristischen Vereinigung ‘Islamischer Staat (IS)’ erhoben.”

[105] Semini.

[106] Ibid.

[107] Spilcker, “Logistiker des Terrors;” Schneider.

[108] Ibid.

[109] “Anklage gegen mutmaßliches Mitglied einer Terrorzelle der ausländischen terroristischen Vereinigung ‘Islamischer Staat (IS)’ erhoben.”

[110] Ibid.

[111] Weinthal; Spilcker, “Logistiker des Terrors.”

[112] “Prozess gegen Islamisten; Er wollte einen Youtube-Star ermorden!” Bild, September 23, 2020; Spilcker, “Anschläge in IS-Auftrag geplant.”

[113] Schneider.

[114] “Anklage gegen mutmaßliches Mitglied einer Terrorzelle der ausländischen terroristischen Vereinigung ‘Islamischer Staat (IS)’ erhoben;” Spilcker, “Anschläge in IS-Auftrag geplant.”

[115] Ibid.

[116] Naber, “‘Do Jihad in Germany.’”

[117] Ibrahim Naber, “Suspected IS terror cell in North Rhine-Westphalia excavated; The Islamists’ pla