Germany detains three 'Al-Qaeda members'

29th April 2011, Comments 0 comments

German police on Friday detained three alleged members of Al-Qaeda, federal prosecutors said, as a report said they had been plotting attacks in Germany.

The prosecutor's office in the southwestern city of Karlsruhe said the trio had been taken into custody early Friday and would appear before a judge Saturday, when a news conference has been scheduled.

It declined to provide further details.

Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich said the arrests had "averted a concrete, immediate threat... we must remain vigilant", according to a message by government spokesman Steffen Seibert on micro-blogging site Twitter.

The daily Bild reported that the three were Germans of Moroccan origin from the western German state of North Rhine-Westphalia and were caught with "large amounts of explosives".

Citing security sources, the newspaper said they were suspected of plotting attacks in Germany. They came to the attention of the Federal Crime Office during surveillance of mobile phone and computer communications.

Bild identified them as Abdeladim K., Jamil S. and Ahmed Sh. and said K. and S. had been arrested in Duesseldorf overnight Thursday. Sh. was arrested in the nearby city of Bochum.

Abdeladim K., the group's apparent leader, was trained in an Islamist camp in Waziristan, the border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan, said the Sueddeutsche Zeitung. According to Der Spiegel magazine he had regular contacts with suspected Al-Qaeda leaders in the region.

The daily Rheinische Post based in Duesseldorf, the capital of North Rhine-Westphalia, reported in an advance copy of its Saturday issue that the suspects had tested explosives, citing sources close to the investigation.

It said the men had been under surveillance since late 2010 and attracted the attention of the authorities when they attempted to buy large amounts of key chemicals at pharmacies.

Quoting an investigator Die Welt newspaper said in its Saturday edition that the group was planning to strike "in public transport in a big city".

Spiegel magazine's website said German police had been cooperating with the CIA and the Moroccan secret service.

The Moroccan government said Friday that Al-Qaeda was suspected in connection with a bomb attack Thursday that killed 16 in Marrakesh.

German authorities hiked security measures in November after US authorities warned of an Al-Qaeda plot to carry out "Mumbai-style" attacks in Britain, France and Germany.

US authorities handed over to Germany last week the source of the tip, alleged Islamic militant Ahmed Wali Siddiqui, who had been held for nine months in Afghanistan.

According to German media, Siddiqui met with Al-Qaeda's third in command, Sheikh Yunis al-Mauretani, who initiated him into a plot to carry out attacks in Europe similar to those in the Indian city of Mumbai in 2008 in which 10 gunmen killed 166 people and injured more than 300.

The interior ministry announced in February that the state of alert would gradually be scaled back.

The GdP police union said the arrests showed "that the threat remains high and that investigating authorities must be well staffed and well equipped".

Germany, which opposed the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq but has nearly 5,000 troops in Afghanistan under NATO command, has never experienced an attack by Muslim extremists on its own soil.

But authorities say the Islamist scene is large and dangerous.

The closest it has come to an attack was in July 2006 when Islamic militants placed suitcases with homemade bombs on two regional trains at Cologne's main station. They failed to detonate, averting an almost certain bloodbath.

And in 2007, three men including two German converts to Islam were caught plotting attacks on US interests in western Germany in what authorities said was a bid to mount a "second September 11."

They were sentenced last year to lengthy prison terms.

© 2011 AFP

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