BERLIN, March 12 (UPI) -- A series of Islamist terrorist killings, kidnappings and video threats have shocked several Western European nations in recent weeks.
A German aid worker was killed in Afghanistan, Germany and Austria over the weekend received a video threat from an Islamist group, a German woman and her son have been kidnapped in Iraq, and an Italian journalist faces execution if Rome doesn't come up with an exit strategy for its roughly 2,000 soldiers in Afghanistan -- this is the horrific toll of the past 10 days.
For Germany in particular, the threats are a tough reminder that despite the country's staunch opposition to the Iraq war and its refusal to send ground soldiers into southern Afghanistan to fight the Taliban, Germany -- just as other European nations are -- is in the gridlock of global terrorism.
Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, Germany's top anti-terror chief, Monday told a German radio station that his government "must not be blackmailed," despite widespread shock over the kidnapping of a 61-year-old woman from Berlin and her son in Iraq. The pair was snatched last month by armed men, who entered their home in Bagdad, where the woman lived since she had married an Iraqi professor.
Just a few days after a German aid worker was ambushed and executed by unknown individuals in northern Afghanistan, a video of the kidnapped pair was released over the weekend, showing the woman begging for her and her son's life.
"I am asking you to help me," she said in tears. "We are Germans as well. These people want to kill my son before my eyes and then kill me. I don't want to die like this."
Behind the hostages stood three masked militants of a group calling itself the 'Brigade of the Arrows of Righteousness' -- one of the men demanded the withdrawal of Germany's nearly 3,000 troops in northern Afghanistan, where the Germans lead reconstruction efforts under the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force. "Otherwise, you will not even see one corpse for these two agents."
Germany's Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier called the video "shocking" and promised to do everything to bring about a swift return of the pair. A crisis team has been set up in his foreign ministry to find ways to do so.
A day later, a video surfaced on a Web site linked to al-Qaida that warned Germany and neighboring Austria of terror attacks if they didn't pull out their troops from Afghanistan. Austria has a total of five troops there.
A masked man read out a statement in Arabic with English subtitles: "Germany's participation in the U.S. war on Islam and Muslims will lead only to endangering Germany itself."
As to Austria, he said: "Do not destroy the security of a whole country for the sake of five soldiers you have sent to Afghanistan ... Decide quickly and withdraw your soldiers."
With the flags of Germany and Austria displayed in front of a burning background, the man added: "In standing by the United States, you have provoked those whom you call terrorists to target you."
To Schaeuble, the interior minister, the threats don't come as a surprise.
"We are part of a global threat zone," he said. No one should "succumb to the illusion that that we were not threatened like the British, the Spaniards or others," he added, in a reference to the London and Madrid bombings.
Berndt Georg Thamm, a Berlin-based terrorism expert, said the group, which calls itself the "Voice of the Khalifate," was part of the movement that had for its final goal the formation of a final Muslim theocracy, a goal shared by the likes of the Taliban and al-Qaida.
"The message reveals that the most important conflicts of the jihad -- Iraq, Afghanistan and Chechnya -- are virtually linked," Thamm Monday told United Press International in a telephone interview. "The terrorist have supporters in Europe who relay detailed information about the individual countries back to them."
The threats come just days after Germany's parliament agreed to a controversial deployment of eight Tornado reconnaissance planes and 500 soldiers to Afghanistan.
While Thamm said the decision to deploy the Tornados did not spark the messages -- "That would have happened anyway," he said -- he called them clever "terrorist product placement," at a time when the increasingly death-toll heavy fight against the Taliban in southern Afghanistan is under scrutiny in the West.