Alleged suitcase bomber identifies himself in footage

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The trial for attempted mass murder of a Lebanese student charged with planting bombs on German trains entered its second day in Dusseldorf, with the accused identifying himself on police video footage.

19 December 2007

Dusseldorf, Germany (dpa) - The trial for attempted mass murder of a Lebanese student charged with planting bombs on German trains entered its second day in Dusseldorf Wednesday, with the accused identifying himself on police video footage.

Youssef al-Hajj Dib picked himself out on a platform at Cologne's main station on July 31 last year wearing a German national team football shirt with the number 13, that of star player and captain Michael Ballack on it.

Al-Hajj Dib, 23, said he admired the way Ballack played. "He plays very well," he told the heavily guarded court.

He also identified his alleged accomplice, Jihad Hammad, 22, who has been jailed in Lebanon in connection with the failed attack.

The leader of the investigation told the court police had noticed from the footage that the two Lebanese had avoided eye contact on the platform after entering the station and buying their tickets together.

The police officer told the court the bombs had been placed in open-plan carriages in the middle of two trains that left platform three within minutes of each other.

Hamad was shown minutes later leaving Cologne Main Station by taxi bound for the city's airport.

The office also told the court of a note in Arabic with telephone numbers found in the suitcase, along with a packet of flavour enhancer from Lebanon.

Al-Hajj Dib was picked up by police in the main rail station of the northern German city of Kiel on August 19.

Hamad gave himself up to police after his return to Lebanon and admitted to the attempted bombing, implicating Al-Hajj Dib.

The prosecution is to argue the attack was intended as a protest against the caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed originally published in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten in September 2005.

Al-Hajj Dib's lawyers have indicated they will argue that the accused deliberately constructed a faulty bomb and that his intention was to scare the German public.

A Beirut court Tuesday sentenced Hamad to 12 years for his part in the failed bomb plot. It handed down an even more severe sentence in absentia on Al-Hajj Dib, commuting a death sentence to an effective 21 years in jail.

The bombs, had they detonated, could have caused carnage on the scale seen in Madrid in March 2004 and in London in July 2005.

The Dusseldorf trial is to continue on January 10.

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