BERLIN – The number of mainly Turkish Islamist extremists based in Germany increased slightly last year, Interior Minister Otto Schily said on Tuesday at a news conference releasing the 2004 report by the country’s domestic security agency. There were 31,800 Islamist radicals resident in Germany at the end of 2004, up from 30,950 in 2003, said the report, which stressed that this was a mere one percent of the three million Muslims living in the country. Police and prosecutors are currently investigating 171 cases linked to Islamist terrorism, he said. The biggest group in Germany is the Turkish Islamic Community Milli Goerues, with 26,500 members, which wants to create an Islamic republic in Turkey. Osama bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda network is present in Germany but the report admitted there were no concrete figures on the number of Al- Qaeda sleepers still present in the country. Several of the extremists responsible for the 11 September 2001 attacks on New York and Washington lived in Germany disguised as students before travelling to the US. The report said about 850 members of the radical Lebanese Islamist group Hezbollah are based in Germany, as well as 1,300 members of the Egyptian Muslim brotherhood and 350 member of various Algerian Islamist groups. Schily also reported that neo-Nazi crime in Germany increased last year, but that the overall number of rightists declined. There were 12,051 rightist crimes reported in 2004, up from 10,792 in 2003. Violent neo-Nazi crime was up slightly with 776 reported cases in 2004, compared to 759 cases in 2003. The biggest increase was in propaganda offences, such as display of banned Nazi symbols and giving the Nazi salute, which is prohibited under German law. There were 8,337 such offences last year, up from 7,551 in 2003. Germany’s leading right-wing extremist party, the National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD), is recruiting from the skinhead and neo-Nazi movement, said Schily. The NPD grew to 5,300 members, up from 5,000 in 2003, the report said. This, however, is still less than its previous high of 6,100 members in 2002. An attempt by Schily to ban the NPD was struck down by Germany’s highest court in 2003 – to the minister’s great anger. “The (NPD) party leader describes the super-criminal Hitler as a great statesman,” said Schily with a dismissive wave of his hand. Schily expressed alarm over growth of the neo-Nazi and skinhead movements. While the number remains small – 3,800 people – this is a 25 percent increase over the previous year. Overall, there was a decline in the number of Germans in right-wing extremist parties and movements. At the end of 2004 there was 40,700 people in such groups, down from 41,500 in 2003, the report said. Schily also expressed anger on Tuesday over repeated linking of his policies with those of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler by a Turkish newspaper. “I think it’s a scandal,” said Schily, who called on the Turkish government to take action against the radical Islamist newspaper, Vakit, adding that if Ankara lacked legal means to do so, it should consider creating them. Vakit was banned in Germany by Schily earlier this year owing to its anti-Semitic content. Since then, the paper has featured Schily and Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder on its front page in photomontages with a swastika armband or a Nazi flag.