German police hold Lebanese train bomb terrorism suspect
19 August 2006
KIEL, GERMANY – German police captured a 21-year-old Lebanese student just before dawn Saturday on suspicion of planting terrorist bombs three weeks ago on trains and said they were still looking for an accomplice.
Prosecutors gave the arrested man’s first names as Youssef Mohammed, but withheld his surname. They said his DNA and fingerprints had been found on one of the two suitcases concealing the bombs. Neither exploded because of construction mistakes.
The wheeled suitcases, taken aboard trains on July 31 at Cologne in the west of the country, ended up in lost-and-found offices.
Anti-terrorist police said the arrested man had been put in a panic by Friday’s nationwide publication of a series of security-camera colour images that showed him waiting on a platform, wearing a German football shirt with the number 13 on the back.
Prosecutor-General Monika Harms said he had been attempting to flee Kiel as a result. She added that the suspect would appear on Sunday in the southern city of Karlsruhe before a magistrate who could rule on his further detention.
Harms said investigators believed the two were part of a wider group.
“It is typified as a group of offenders with signs of a long-term structure,” she said.
Joerg Ziercke, head of the BKA federal police, said panicking the suspect had been the calculated intention of investigators. The student of mechanical electronics was arrested waiting at the main railway station of Kiel, a Baltic port in the north of the country.
Police searched his bags, refuse containers and the station area for several hours, but found no explosives.
Television news reports said fellow residents of a Kiel hostel described the suspect as “very Islamic,” but Ziercke said it was too early to state if he was an Islamist or had links to any international terrorist groups.
Detectives scoured the hostel in a leafy district of Kiel and police frogmen searched a nearby pond for possible evidence.
A reward of 50,000 euros (63,950 dollars) remained available for the capture of the second man, who Ziercke said was not in Kiel.
The arrested student, who had entered Germany in 2004 and initially lived in the west of the country, had been resident in Kiel since February 2005, said Ralf Stegner, interior minister of the state of Schleswig-Holstein.
The Lebanon connection brought a chill in Germany, where police had initially suspected the bombs could be the work of a common extortionist. The wrapping from Lebanese food was found in one bag.
The inquiry became more urgent after the bomb scare this month at London’s Heathrow Airport and the arrest of Muslim men in Britain who are believed to have formed a homegrown Islamist terrorist group.
Ziercke said it was still too early to say if Germany had a similar autonomous Islamist group on its territory.
Three of the suicide-hijack pilots in the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington had been students in Hamburg who had apparently become radicalized through contacts with fundamentalist mosques in the city and joined al-Qaeda in Afghanistan.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel welcomed the arrest and Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble hailed the success of the 19-day inquiry.
The July 31 attacks initially attracted only modest attention, because no damage was done, but police said they appeared to have been intended to cause major disasters on two provincial trains.
Police said the 25-kilo gas and petrol bombs, which were later deposited by unsuspecting train guards at left luggage offices in the cities of Koblenz and Dortmund, only failed to explode because of an unspecified error by the bombmaker.
Koblenz railway station had a fresh bomb alert Saturday when a mystery bag was found on a train, but it proved a false alarm. Police said they had later traced a foreign tourist who owned the bag.
Subject: German news