Wednesday 20 September 2017

'Recruiter' arrested as terror plot thwarted in Germany

German police officers stand guard in front of a mosque during a terror raid in Frankfurt yesterday Photo: Michael Probst/AP
German police officers stand guard in front of a mosque during a terror raid in Frankfurt yesterday Photo: Michael Probst/AP

Lizzie Dearden

A new terror attack plot has been thwarted in Germany after mass police raids resulted in the arrest of a prolific Tunisian Isil recruiter.

Police stormed 54 homes, mosques and businesses in the state of Hesse early yesterday in an operation targeting extremists planning "serious state-threatening violence".

"According to evidence gathered so far, attack plans were still in an early phase and had not selected a specific target," said a spokesperson for the Hesse state criminal investigation office. Officials said the main suspect arrested was a 26-year-old Tunisian man who has been wanted since August 2015 as a recruiter and people- smuggler for Isil.

The unnamed suspect had allegedly established a network of supporters "with the aim, among other things, of committing a terrorist attack in Germany". He was present in Germany from 2003 to 2013, then returned during the refugee crisis of 2015, posing as an asylum seeker. He was arrested shortly afterwards over a previous conviction for bodily harm in 2008, for which he needed to serve 43 days in prison, and Tunisian authorities requested his extradition.

They suspect the jihadi of involvement in the attack on the Bardo Museum in Tunisia in March 2015, which left 20 tourists dead, and an assault by Isil insurgents on the border town of Ben Guerdane last year. German authorities said the man was freed from prison in September, and because Tunisia had not submitted the required extradition documents, he had to be released from temporary custody in November after the maximum period allowed under German law. Paperwork delays also prevented the deportation of the Isil supporter who carried out the Berlin Christmas market attack, with the revelation sparking anger at German and Tunisian authorities, as Angela Merkel pledged reforms.

"From immediately after his release until his arrest on February 1, the main suspect was watched around the clock," a spokesperson for Frankfurt police said. The man did not resist his arrest, which was delayed to avoid jeopardising the ongoing investigation into a wider terror network, he added.

He is one of 16 suspected Isil supporters aged between 16 and 46 targeted in the four-month investigation.

In a separate case, prosecutors in Berlin said that they arrested three people on Tuesday night who were suspected of planning to travel to Syria or Iraq to undergo explosives and weapons training with Isil.

All three were associated with the Fussilet mosque in Berlin, known as a gathering point for radicals, prosecutors said. Anis Amri, the Berlin Christmas market attacker, visited the mosque shortly before he ploughed a lorry into crowds on December 19, killing 12 people. (© London Independent)

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