"Suitcase bomber" denies intent to kill

7th February 2008, Comments 0 comments

Suspect says he deliberately sabotaged the bombs.

Dusseldorf -- A Lebanese man involved in a foiled attempt to blow up two German trains with suitcase bombs in July 2006 said Thursday that he did not intend to kill anyone.

He deliberately sabotaged the bombs he had constructed together with an accomplice, Youssef al-Hajj Dib told a court in the German city of Dusseldorf trying him for multiple murder.

"I'm happy that at the last moment I was able to prevent innocent victims dying," he said through an interpreter. "I was 100 percent certain that the thing we made would not explode."

Al-Hajj Dib accused his co-conspirator, Jihad Hammad, 22, of inciting him to blow up the trains. Hammad was convicted of the crime by a Beirut court and is now serving 12 years in prison.

"It is our duty to kill civilians if the prophet is insulted," Hammad told him, said al-Hajj Dib, who was also convicted in Lebanon and sentenced to death in absentia, later commuted to life.

During the Beirut trial, Hammad admitted in court that their action had been a protest against the caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed originally published in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten in September 2005.

He used verses from the Koran and religious opinions to back up this view, al-Hajj Dib, 23, said.

"I was unable to contradict him, but my heart told me it was not right what we were doing," the accused said. "I believed in jihad (holy war) and was against the US presence in Iraq, but also opposed the use of violence against civilians."

Al-Hajj Dib said that in the end he bowed to pressure from Hammad and agreed to the plan, although he continued to harbour doubts.

The two men built the bombs using designs they found on the Internet, but Al-Hajj Dib said he did not complete the third phase of the construction which required mixing chemicals to trigger an explosion. Hammad did not notice this, he said.

The pair then placed the devices in the suitcases and went together to Cologne station on July 31, 2006. They took trains in opposite directions, left the bombs on board and set about leaving the country. Neither bomb exploded.

At the Lebanese court hearing, Hammad claimed that al-Hajj Dib thought up the plan and persuaded him to go along with it.

Al-Hajj Dib, who was arrested at Kiel railway station in northern Germany in August 2006, is reported to have shared an apartment in Cologne with Hammad just weeks before the attempted bombings.

German police said the two Lebanese men, dubbed the "suitcase bombers" by the German press, had assembled the devices wrongly.

Had there not been errors in the bombs' construction, the explosions near the cities of Hamm and Koblenz would have resulted in the deaths of hundreds of people.

DPA with Expatica

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