German police escort a suspected member of al Qaida 311 (R).
(photo credit: REUTERS/Alex Domanski)
KARLSRUHE, Germany - Three suspected al-Qaida members had been planning a bomb attack in Germany for four months when they were arrested, federal prosecutors said.
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Rainer Griesbaum, a federal prosecutor, told a news conference on Saturday that the trio, led by a 29-year-old Moroccan, had planned to detonate their device in a crowded area but had not yet picked a target.
"They were still in the experimental phase," Griesbaum said. "They were
planning to explode a device packed with pieces of metal in the midst of
a large crowd."
German authorities said the suspects, arrested on Friday, had discussed planting the bomb on a bus or at a bus stop.
The three were detained in police raids in Duesseldorf and the nearby
city of Bochum at 6:30 a.m. on Friday after authorities, who had been
monitoring the group, decided they might be getting close to carrying
out an attack.
Prosecutors said the public had not been in danger.Bild
newspaper reported that
the Eurovision Song Contest, watched by more than 100 million television
viewers, was a possible target. The contest will be held in the western
city of Duesseldorf on May 14.
The suspected ringleader, a 29-year-old college drop-out identified as
Abdeladim El-K., was charged with planning a terror attack in Germany
and being a member of a foreign terror organisation. The other two
suspects are still being questioned.
Griesbaum said the 29-year-old Moroccan had attended an al-Qaida terror
camp in the Waziristan region of Pakistan near the Afghan border in
2010. He returned to Germany in May 2010 and was attempting to build a
terror network here with an estimated seven to eight members.
"But it could also be more than that," said Joerg Ziercke, president of
the Federal Crime Office (BKA), at the news conference at the federal
prosecutor's office in Karlsruhe. "We'll learn more with our
The suspects had cheered Thursday's bombing in Marrakesh where 15 were killed, Griesbaum said.
The other suspects are a 31-year-old electrician identified as Jamil S.,
who holds dual German and Moroccan citizenship, and a 19-year-old with
German and Iranian citizenship, Amid C., who was about to graduate from
Jamil S. was tasked to arrange the financing of the attack and obtain
identity papers for Abdeladim El-K. Amid C. was responsible for ensuring
Germany's Der Spiegel
magazine reported on Saturday that the CIA as well as Morocco's
intelligence agency had worked with German authorities on the
Ziercke said the three had inspected public buildings and downloaded information on explosives from the internet.
"But we don't have any indications that they were planning a suicide bombing," Ziercke said.
Authorities said they decided to launch the raid on Friday when the
suspects discussed making a "detonator for a bomb" by extracting
hexamine from barbecue firelighters and mixing that with hydrogen
peroxide and citric acid.
Last year, a court in Duesseldorf convicted four militants who admitted
planning "a monstrous bloodbath" with car bomb attacks on US targets.
They were known as the "Sauerland group" after the area of western
Germany where they were caught.
European countries have grappled with militant threats for years,
regularly arresting individuals or groups suspected of planning attacks
some fear could mirror bombings in Madrid in 2004 and London in 2005
which killed more than 200 people.
Berlin views Germany as a potential target because it has nearly 5,000
military personnel stationed in Afghanistan, the third largest
contingent of the 150,000-strong international force fighting the