Germany plans tighter anti-terrorism laws to prevent travel, financing by foreign fighters

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BERLIN — Germany plans to clamp down on the flow of would-be jihadis by making it an offense to travel abroad with the aim of joining the Islamic State group or other extremist organizations.

Authorities estimate that about 600 Islamic extremists have left Germany to fight in Syria or Iraq in recent years. Until now, such people could only be prosecuted when they returned to Germany, by which time officials feared they could be battle-hardened and pose a domestic terror threat.

A draft bill, obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press, extends existing laws to cover anyone intending to travel abroad in order to carry out, or train for, a terrorist attack. It complements a recent measure that allows authorities to confiscate the travel documents of Islamic extremists.

A police union official welcomed the bill, but warned it would only be effective if security services are able to obtain sufficient proof to arrest would-be jihadis before they board a plane.

"Intentions and motives take place inside the head of a potential perpetrator," said Rainer Wendt, chairman of the German Police Union. "That's why we expect clear-cut laws."

Wendt also called for greater police powers to retain emails and other data for later use during investigations.

A separate measure would give authorities additional legal firepower to prosecute anyone who funnels even small amounts of money to terrorist groups.

The bill will be debated by Cabinet on Wednesday. It would still need to be passed by Parliament before it becomes law, bringing Germany in line with a 2014 U.N. Security Council resolution.

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