Police have arrested a man suspected of planning an attack who they believe has ties to IS and may have an accomplice.
Jabr Al Bakr had carried out research in the internet into making bombs and on Monday, Tagesspiegel newspaper reported that he had planned to blow up an airport in Berlin, citing security sources.
On Sunday, the police released two of three people they had detained after further raids but continue to question the third, named as Kalil A. He was arrested in Chemnitz, is 33 years old and also a refugee.
The arrest of Jabr Al Bakr followed a two-day man-hunt. Saxony state police announced Monday that they had finally captured the suspect on Sunday night in the East German town of Leipzig. “We are tired but overjoyed: the terror suspect Al Bakr was captured last night in Leipzig,” Saxony police said on Twitter. Mr. Al Bakr escaped police after a raid on his home near Chemnitz in which explosive materials – reportedly acetone peroxide – were found on Saturday. Police found several hundred grams of explosives, acting on information from the domestic intelligence service. On Sunday police carried out further raids in the town in eastern German near the Czech border. But they were criticized for failing to catch the man, age 22, whom they had reportedly been observing for several days and who narrowly escaped arrest. Police had seen him at the door of the apartment block before he slipped through their grasp, Reuters reported. The state criminal investigation office defended the police and on Monday praised the security forces for their work.
Mr. Al Bakr came to Germany in February 2015 and is a recognized asylum seeker, a fact likely to fuel the debate about Chancellor Merkel’s open door refugee policy last year.
Federal prosecutors took up the case on Sunday and a spokesperson told broadcaster SWR that after a review of the situation, and considering the amount of explosives that had been found, indicators suggested the person had planned to commit an attack. Given the potential size of the attack, the chief federal prosecutor was to lead the investigation.
There were conflicting reports about the quantity of explosives found in the apartment in the Yorck area of Chemnitz. Bild, Germany’s largest tabloid, reported that kilograms had been found, citing sources close to the investigations. The newspaper also reported that the man had been trained by IS.
Across the country, the authorities raised the level of security at train stations and airports. Ivo Priebe, a police spokesperson, said this heightened security applied to key infrastructure, with increased police presence at Berlin’s Schönefeld airport and police stopping cars and buses. However security remained the same at Frankfurt and Munich airports, where tougher measures have been in place since the recent attacks in Paris and Brussels.
The news is likely to spark further debate about Ms. Merkel’s open-door refugee policy, after last year 1 million people fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East and Africa came to Germany. In July and August, two attacks were carried out and claimed by IS. One was an ax attack in Würzburg, and the other was a suicide bombing in Ansbach.
According to media reports, the authorities have managed to prevent several other planned attacks this year.
Allison Williams is deputy editor in chief of Handelsblatt Global. To contact the author: email@example.com