Germans foil 'massive' bomb plot

THREE Islamic militants from an al-Qaeda influenced group have been arrested on suspicion of plotting imminent massive bomb attacks targeting Americans in Germany.

The three men - two German converts to Islam and a Turkish citizen linked to a group based in Central Asia - had about 700kg of hydrogen peroxide - enough to make a bomb with the explosive power of 550kg of TNT, German prosecutors said.

The same material was used by London's 21/7 bombers.

The men were arrested on Tuesday, the same day Danish police seized eight young Muslims they suspect of plotting a bomb attack and one week before the sixth anniversary of the 11 September, 2001 attacks on the United States.

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Monika Harms, a German federal prosecutor, said the suspects planned to attack institutions and establishments frequented by Americans in Germany, including discos, pubs and airports.

One possible target was the massive US air base at Ramstein - it serves as the main US logistical outpost to fuel the war in Iraq and is the arrival point for its badly wounded service personnel, most of whom are treated at the nearby Landstuhl military hospital.

Media reports also said that the men were planning attacks against Frankfurt airport.

"We were able to succeed in recognising and preventing the most serious and massive bombings," Ms Harms said.

Germany's GSG-9 anti- terrorist unit arrested two of the suspects on Tuesday at a holiday home in Oberschledorn, a village in central Germany.

The suspects, appearing behind closed doors yesterday at the federal court of justice in Karlsruhe, were ordered held pending trial.

A man identified as being the group's leader, Fritz G - Germany routinely does not issue the last names of criminal suspects - is 28 and comes from Ulm in southern Germany, where he is understood to have worked at the city's Islamic information centre after converting to Islam in the recent years.

The other German, Daniel S, 22, is also a Muslim convert and comes from Saarbrcken on the border with France. The third man is a Turk named as Adem Y, 29, who lives in Frankfurt.

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Officials said the 35 per cent hydrogen peroxide solution could have been mixed with other additives to produce a bomb. "This would have enabled them to make bombs with more explosive power than the ones used in the London and Madrid bombings," Jrg Ziercke, the head of the Federal Crime Office, Germany's equivalent of the FBI, said.

Prosecutors said the three had undergone training at camps in Pakistan run by the Islamic Jihad Union, and had formed a German cell of the al-Qaeda influenced group.

"This group distinguishes itself through its profound hatred of US citizens," Mr Ziercke said.

The chancellor, Angela Merkel, thanked security officials for foiling the attack, and called the arrests a "very, very great success". She added: "This shows that terrorist dangers, in our country as well, are not abstract but are real."

Germany, which has forces stationed in Afghanistan, has been on high alert for attacks.

But concerns about an attack have mounted since two men of Lebanese origin tried to detonate crude bombs hidden in suitcases on trains last year.

"We are under threat," Wolfgang Schaeuble, the interior minister, said at a press conference in Berlin. "We have to remain vigilant."


THE Islamic Jihad Union, named by Germany as being behind the major bomb plot, is an obscure militant movement whose origins are in Uzbekistan.

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According to a think-tank, the Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism, the movement - also called the Islamic Jihad Group (IJG) - emerged in 2004 as a splinter faction from another central Asian organisation.

It claimed responsibility for suicide attacks that killed 47 people in April that year. Three months later, it killed at least two in attacks on the United States and Israeli embassies and the Uzbek prosecutor's office. The attacks cemented IJG's status as a real terrorist threat.


German al-Queda military detonators unleash new security fears


THE arrest of an al-Qaeda terrorist cell in Germany is, on reflection, not that surprising. After all, the Germans provide a significant number of troops for the campaign in Afghanistan, while Frankfurt and Ramstein also act as an airbridge for US casualties returning from the Middle East.

The really significant fact is that military detonators have been found during the recent investigation and arrests. Producing home-made explosives or obtaining commercial material such as Semtex has never been a problem for terrorist groups; you only have to consult the internet, let alone travel to Pakistan. The huge problem for malcontents has always been finding detonators that have enough velocity to set off high-powered explosives in a timely manner. Only commercial or military detonators fit this bill and in this country, thanks to the IRA, stocks of detonators from quarries have become almost impossible to steal or obtain illegally. Hence the various cock-ups in London last July and latterly at Glasgow Airport, when amateur means were deployed.

Until now, the latest wave of Islamic terrorists in Europe has not been doing too well in the explosives department. However, if they have now sourced a covert supply of military detonators, the entire strategic picture in Europe could be about to change.

• Clive Fairweather is a former SAS deputy and Middle East adviser