Prison closed for the “brain” of the EI group in Germany

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Celle | He is presented as the “brain” of the Islamic State group in Germany: the Iraqi preacher “Abu Walaa” was sentenced Wednesday to 10 and a half years in prison for radicalizing young people and helping to prepare for violent action.

Ahmad Abdulaziz Abdullah Abdullah, alias “Abou Walaa”, had been on trial for more than three years in Celle, in the north of the country, alongside suspected accomplices, in a river trial surrounded by a drastic security system.

The 37-year-old preacher was convicted of membership in a terrorist organization, financing of terrorism and assisting in the preparation of violent action. He was sentenced to 10 years and six months in prison. The prosecution had required 11 years of detention, his lawyer pleading the acquittal.

“Abu Walaa” was, according to the prosecution, “the representative in Germany” of the Islamic State organization, maintaining “direct contact” with its leaders.

He was also the “brain of the network” which sent volunteer fighters from Germany to Syria or Iraq.

Three co-defendants were sentenced for complicity to terms of between four and eight years’ imprisonment.

“Faceless preacher”

Abu Walaa had set up in his mosque in Hildesheim, Lower Saxony, a veritable recruiting enterprise.

At least eight people, “mainly very young people”, according to the prosecution, left, including German twin brothers who committed a bloody suicide bombing in Iraq in 2015.

He was a “leading authority with great charisma” in the jihadist movement in Germany, the court summed up. As such, he had been authorized by ISIS to “act on his behalf”.

The man arrived in Germany as an asylum seeker in 2001 and was arrested in November 2016 after a lengthy internal intelligence investigation.

Very cautious and discreet, he was nicknamed “the faceless preacher” because his sermons online, much watched in the jihadosphere, never showed him face to face.

He is also accused of having preached jihad in the now closed Hildesheim mosque.

Among those who frequented the group are at least one of three teenagers who, aged 16, planted a bomb in April 2016 in a Sikh temple in Germany, injuring three men, one seriously.

In addition, Anis Amri, the Tunisian responsible for the ram truck attack on the Berlin Christmas market (12 dead in December 2016), appears to have been in contact with this network.

The Tunisian asylum seeker, killed in his flight to Italy by the police, also attended a Berlin mosque known for its links with jihadism and where Abu Walaa had the opportunity to preach. However, direct contact between the two men was never established.


The prosecution was based mainly on the testimony of an informant who for months collected clues and evidence against the Iraqi preacher. Fearing for his life, this prosecution witness was exempted from testifying at the hearing.

Another key informant, a disillusioned jihadist fighter, returning from former ISIS territories, also agreed to cooperate and tell how Abu Walaa’s network sent him via Brussels and Turkey.

But for Abu Walaa’s lawyer, Peter Krieger, these accusations were based on the statements of an untrustworthy witness, already convicted as a member of ISIS. “The main witness is a crook,” he lost his temper at the hearing.

If far-right terrorism has been elevated to the forefront of threats to the security of Germany, the jihadist nebula remains active there.

Three Syrian brothers, suspected of preparing explosive attacks, were arrested in early February in Germany and Denmark.

Since 2009, the German authorities have foiled 17 such attempted attacks.

The number of Islamists considered dangerous in Germany has increased fivefold since 2013 to currently stand at 615, according to the Interior Ministry. That of the Salafists is estimated at around 11,000, which is twice as much as in 2013.