German police say Syrian bomb plot suspect ‘has Isis links’

Jaber Albakr (22) arrested in Leipzig on suspicion of planning Islamist terror attack

German police and crime scene investigators exit an apartment complex in the Pausdorf district of Leipzig, Germany, on October 10th, 2016. Photograph: Hendrik Schmidt/EPA/Getty Images

German police and crime scene investigators exit an apartment complex in the Pausdorf district of Leipzig, Germany, on October 10th, 2016. Photograph: Hendrik Schmidt/EPA/Getty Images

 

A Syrian man who came to Germany during a migrant influx into the country last year was arrested on Monday after a weekend manhunt on suspicion of planning an Islamist bomb attack, Saxony state police said.

Police had been looking for 22-year-old Jaber Albakr since he evaded them during a raid on Saturday on an apartment in the eastern German city of Chemnitz, where they found several hundred grammes of explosive.

“Tired but overjoyed: we captured the terror suspect last night in Leipzig, ” Saxony state police said on Twitter, adding that they seized Albakr after acting on a tip-off that other Syrians were holding him at an apartment in Leipzig.

“Leipzig police immediately went to the identified place and took Albakr,” they said. A nationwide and international search for the Syrian was then called off.

He is motivated by Islamic extremism and is likely linked to Islamic State (Isis), police and prosecutors said.

Authorities said Albakr had approached other Syrians at the railway station in the eastern city of Leipzig and asked if he could sleep at their home.

Saxony criminal police chief Joerg Michaelis said the three Syrians recognised Albakr from police wanted posters which had been distributed online.

He said two of the Syrians bound and held Albakr at their apartment while the other brought a mobile phone photo of Albakr to a local police station, leading to the suspect’s arrest.

Albakr had been on the radar of the security services since last month.

Mr Michaelis said that, at this stage of the investigation, “the behaviour and actions of the suspect currently speak for an Isis context”.

Ulrike Demmer, a spokeswoman for German chancellor Angela Merkel, thanked the authorities and the Syrians who helped in Albakr’s arrest.

Refugee status

Albakr had arrived in Germany last year and won recognition as a refugee from his homeland’s civil war, police said.

A spokesman for the federal prosecutor’s office told broadcaster SWR on Sunday: “The overall picture of the investigation, in particular the amount of explosive found, suggests that the person was planning to carry out an Islamist-motivated attack.”

The arrest will prove unwelcome news for chancellor Angela Merkel, whose conservatives have lost support to the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party over her open-door policy towards refugees and migrants.

Stephan Mayer, a senior lawmaker with Merkel’s Bavarian allies, the Christian Social Union (CSU), said Germany’s security agencies needed to be consulted more intensively in the authorities’ handling of refugees.

“Germany is in the crosshairs of Islamist terror, just like France, Belgium or Britain,” Mayer told television station n-tv.

‘Threat still high’

“The threat is still high, though there are no concrete indications of planned attacks. We must be very careful.”

Merkel said last month she wished she could “turn back the time by many, many years” to have better prepared for last year’s influx of almost one million migrants.

She has yet to say whether she will seek a fourth term as chancellor in elections next year.

In July, Isis claimed responsibility for two attacks in the western German state of Bavaria - one on a train near Wuerzburg and the other at a music festival in Ansbach, which wounded 20 people.

Western Europe has suffered several major Islamist attacks since early last year, prompting a tightening of public security measures across the continent.

Isis gunmen killed 147 people in Paris in January and November last year, a gunman drove a truck into Bastille Day revellers in the French Riviera city of Nice in July, killing 86, and suicide bombers killed 32 people in Brussels in March.

Reuters and PA