The German Cabinet finalized an amendment on Wednesday to military law that will have military intelligence agency MAD soon more thoroughly scrutinize each applicant for connections to jihadist or extremist groups.
“There are currently indications that Islamist circles are trying to send so-called ‘short-term soldiers’ into the Bundeswehr so that they can receive such training,” according to the explanation of the amendment, which will come into force on July 1st 2017.
Each year about 20,000 military-hopefuls apply for the Bundeswehr (German army). MAD will have to create 90 extra positions to perform the new security checks.
Currently applicants are only required to submit a police certificate of good conduct and profess a commitment to the German Basic Law.
Since 2007, 24 active soldiers have been classified as Islamists, 19 of whom were dismissed. The remaining five had already reached the end of their service terms.
Another 30 former soldiers have left Germany to go to Syria and Iraq, according to MAD figures – some of whom are believed to have connected with terror group Isis, according to unconfirmed security agency reports.
The reform also aims to prevent left- and right-wing extremists from joining the armed forces. According to reports, military intelligence currently counts 268 cases of suspected right-wing extremists among their soldiers, as well as 64 suspected Islamists and six suspected left-wing extremists.
Over the past year, MAD processed 332 suspected cases of Islamist extremists.
The new security checks will investigate potential recruits for “anti-constitutional” activities. Soldiers have thus far only been investigated during their service and only when they are working in security sensitive areas: soldiers who handle weapons of war do not have systematic checks.
Spokespersons for Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative CDU party and its Bavarian sister party, the CSU, told DPA that the changes were “urgently needed”.
“MAD will get the right tools to prevent extremists from entering the Bundeswehr and be trained in heavy weapons.”