Germany turns to technology to assess threat from radicals

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German police on Thursday unveiled a new analytical tool they hope will give investigators accurate predictions about the likelihood that known extremists will carry out a terror attack.

The move comes as the country’s security apparatus is under pressure for failing to prevent a deadly attack in Berlin last year even though police and intelligence officers had tracked the perpetrator for months.

Security officials knew Anis Amri—a 24-year old Tunisian with a history of violence, crime and known extremist views—had talked repeatedly about committing an attack here. But because they thought he wouldn’t follow through, they eventually dropped their surveillance of him. Weeks later, he rammed a truck into a busy Berlin Christmas market, killing 12 people.

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Federal criminal agency BKA, Germany’s closest equivalent to the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, said Thursday it had begun to roll out Radar-iTE, a tool aimed at helping police overburdened by the rising numbers of suspected radical Islamists to single out the most dangerous individuals for closer surveillance.

The new tool, BKA officials said, would ensure a more systematic and objective approach to the assessment of potentially dangerous extremists and seek to harmonize how Germany’s 16 states deal with so-called Gefährder—people considered terror threats but who haven’t committed a crime.

“There are more and more people willing to take part in armed jihad not just in crisis zones but also in Germany,” said BKA President Holger Münch. “For the first time, it will be possible to have a uniform assessment of known militant salafists across the country.”

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