Germany: Syrian bomb plot suspect found dead in cell
A Syrian man arrested on suspicion of plotting a bomb attack on a Berlin airport was found dead in his cell on Wednesday after an apparent suicide, sparking outrage over a "judicial scandal".
Jaber al-Bakr, who was arrested two days earlier following a nationwide manhunt after police found explosives in his apartment, was discovered hanged in his jail cell in the eastern city of Leipzig, reported Germany's Bild daily and national news agency DPA.
"Jaber al-Bakr took his own life in the Leipzig prison hospital," the government of the eastern, ex-communist state of Saxony said in a statement, without elaborating.
The 22-year-old had narrowly evaded police commandos at dawn last Saturday but was arrested some 48 hours later, thanks to three compatriots now widely lauded as heroes, who said that after recognising him, they tied him up and handed him to police.
Politicians and the suspect's defence lawyer reacted with outrage over the death in custody which followed what was widely seen as a botched police search that ended only thanks to the three other Syrian asylum seekers.
'Heroes of Leipzig'
Germany's domestic security service had first alerted police last Friday that Bakr may be plotting a bomb attack, and police investigators have since said he was thought to have had links with the Islamic State group.
Early last Saturday, police closed in on his communist-era flat in the eastern city of Chemnitz, but he managed to slip away after they fired a warning shot, sparking a weekend-long nationwide manhunt and high alerts at railway stations and airports.
Police then discovered 1.5 kilograms (over three pounds) of TATP, the homemade explosive dubbed the "mother of Satan" that was used by Islamic State jihadists in the Paris and Brussels attacks, in his flat.
Investigators said the explosives were "almost ready or even ready for use," and that he was apparently preparing a "bomb, possibly in the form of a suicide vest".
Public broadcaster MDR said on Wednesday that Bakr, who first arrived in Germany in early 2015, had since then twice returned to Syria via Turkey.
|Jaber al-Bakr took his own life in the Leipzig prison hospital.|
Germany's domestic intelligence chief Hans-Georg Maassen said his service had received information that Bakr "initially wanted to target trains in Germany before finally deciding on one of Berlin's airports".
The service reportedly believes the attack may have been only days away.
On the run over the weekend, Bakr had contacted the Syrians, who put him up in their apartment in Leipzig but then realised he was a wanted terror suspect and turned him in to police, having kept him in a headlock and tied up with an electric cable.
He had offered them money to let him go, but they refused, they later told media, which did not identify them for fear of IS reprisals against the men.
The top-selling Bild daily described the trio as "the Syrian heroes from Leipzig", while calls and online petitions have grown to honour and reward them.
DPA said Bakr had told police the three Syrians had been complicit in his attack plans, but it was unclear whether police took that claim seriously. It said there was no news of fresh charges being laid.