Syrian Man Seized In Germany 'Was Planning ISIS Bomb Attack'

From The Guardian:
A 22-year-old Syrian man believed to have been planning a major terrorist attack at a Berlin airport was operating in “an Isis context”, German police have said.

Jaber al-Bakr was found by police after a 48-hour manhunt when they stormed a high-rise block of flats in the eastern city of Leipzig in the early hours of Monday morning, following a tipoff by three other Syrian men.

The three recognised Al-Bakr from police “wanted” posters. Two bound and held him at the flat while the third brought a mobile phone photo to a local police station, leading to the suspect’s arrest.

Saxony police confirmed at a press conference the likelihood that Al-Bakr was linked to Islamic State. “Both his modus operandi and his behaviour suggest this has an Isis context,” the head of Leipzig’s criminal police, Jörg Michaelis, told a press conference.

He said that Al-Bakr had “more or less finished making a suicide vest,” and posed a major threat. Markus Ulbig, the interior minister of Saxony, praised the police operation, which involved 700 officers, and said: “We were successful in preventing a bomb attack.”

Al-Bakr has been transported in a high-security van to Dresden city court, where he is due to appear before a judge.

A 33-year-old who was also arrested for allegedly providing Al-Bakr with the room where he constructed his bomb has been identified as Kalil A., also a refugee.

Eighty people were evacuated from their homes as a result of the police operation, a spokesman said, adding they would be able to return to them tomorrow.

The arrest brought to a close a dramatic manhunt, which had seen extra security measures put in place at airports and railway stations around the country over fears Al-Bakr planned to carry out a bomb attack.

Investigators found about 1kg of a highly volatile explosive in the man’s third-floor flat in Chemnitz. They identified it as TATP, or triacetone triperoxide, 200g of which is enough to cause extensive damage. The explosives were detonated in a specially dug pit outside the apartment because bomb experts considered them too dangerous to transport.

It was the fourth alleged planned bomb attack with an Isis motive that German authorities have foiled this year. Two other attacks this summer claimed by Isis in which people were injured and both assailants died, have contributed to fears that Germany has become increasingly vulnerable to terrorist attacks.

Angela Merkel thanked the security forces for their work. The German chancellor also praised the initiative of the Syrians for informing the police of Al-Bakr’s whereabouts, which led to his arrest shortly afterwards.

The interior minister, Thomas de Maizière, said there were parallels between Al-Bakr’s planned attack and other recent attacks in Europe: “The preparations in Chemnitz are similar from everything that we now know, to the preparations for the attacks in Paris and Brussels.”

Al-Bakr had been under surveillance by Germany’s intelligence service, the BND, for several months and was classed as a high, level-two, threat. But police in Chemnitz had reportedly only been made aware of the threat he posed on Friday.

A surveillance team was stationed close to Bakr’s flat in southern Chemnitz. Bakr, apparently aware he was being watched, left his flat at about 7am on Saturday morning, undeterred by a warning shot from police.

Police initially thought he had returned to his flat, when in fact he had fled via an underground passage. A photograph taken as he emerged from his flat, distributed throughout Germany on social media, showed a man in a black sweatshirt, carrying a rucksack.

Al-Bakr, from Saasaa near Damascus, is reported to have arrived in Germany via Austria as a refugee in February 2015. He was registered by police in Rosenheim, Bavaria, his fingerprints were taken and his details were compared with those in the international register of terrorist suspects, but no match was found. He was sent to asylum-seeker accommodation in the eastern city of Chemnitz and was officially recognised as a refugee in June last year.

Initial evidence suggests he had researched bombmaking methods on the internet as well as frequently visiting Isis websites. Investigators alleged he had definite links to Isis and had been schooled by them in bombmaking.

Police were alerted to the whereabouts of Al-Bakr in the Leipzig flat on Hartriegelstrasse – 60 miles (100km) from Chemnitz – by the three other Syrian refugees. They had met him at Leipzig train station at about noon on Saturday, describing him as exhausted, upset and dishevelled. They offered him a bed in their flat, but realised only later that evening that he was wanted after police sent out a message via social media in Arabic. They reportedly tied him to a sofa before calling police.

Police said the men had subsequently shown them a photo of Al-Bakr tied to the sofa as proof, and urged them to come quickly as they would not be able to restrain him for much longer. A 33-year-old man who rented Al-Bakr a room he allegedly used as a bomb laboratory has also been arrested. Federal prosecutors have taken over the investigation.

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