Germany probes group in terror alert

5th January 2004, Comments 0 comments

5 January 2004, KARLSRUHE - German federal prosecutors have begun an investigation into the radical Islamist organization Ansar al-Islam after its members were thought to be behind a major anti- terrorism alert last week. A spokeswoman for the prosecutors office in Karlsruhe has confirmed it was investigating the organization in an effort "to discover whether it has organizational structures in Germany". Authorities in the northern city of Hamburg last week cordoned off an army hospital and its surrounding

5 January 2004

KARLSRUHE - German federal prosecutors have begun an investigation into the radical Islamist organization Ansar al-Islam after its members were thought to be behind a major anti- terrorism alert last week.

A spokeswoman for the prosecutors office in Karlsruhe has confirmed it was investigating the organization in an effort "to discover whether it has organizational structures in Germany".

Authorities in the northern city of Hamburg last week cordoned off an army hospital and its surroundings after an alleged suicide car bomb threat from followers of Ansar al-Islam.

The operation has led to a political row between Interior Minister Otto Schily and the Hamburg interior minister, Dirk Nockemann, over the way Hamburg authorities handled intelligence information.

Schily criticized Hamburg's decision to publicise the threat as "hasty" and "regrettable". The original warning consisted of "unspecific indications" about threats to military facilities and was not intended to be made public in the way it was, a spokeswoman said.

Thomas Steg, deputy government spokesman in Berlin, said it was correct to alert the public to the continuing terrorist threat, "but this can't be done by panicking and theatricality".

However Nockemann said there had been precise US intelligence of a terrorist attack planned by Ansar el-Islam, a radical Kurdish group with roots in northern Iraq which is believed to have links to the al-Qaeda terrorist network.

In a new twist to the row, Hamburger Abendblatt newspaper reported Saturday the huge security operation may have been based on a misunderstanding - with Homburg, a town in southwestern Germany, and not Hamburg the potential target.

US servicemen are treated at the Homburg University Hospital whereas there are no American soldiers at the military hospital in Hamburg's Wandsbek district.

Nockemann was quoted as saying he could not rule out a mix-up in the relaying of US intelligence information to German security agencies.

The Office for the Protection of the Constitution and the Federal Criminal Police Department - which had passed on the intelligence to Hamburg authorities - would not comment.

According to the news magazine Focus federal police, who have no control over Hamburg police, regarded the risk to the hospital as greatly diminished and were worried that other city targets were less protected since the alert.



DPA
Subject: German news

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