Syrian refugee helps German police detain bomb suspect

Syrian refugee helps German police detain bomb suspect
After a two-day manhunt, German authorities have arrested a terror suspect after two Syrians caught the man and detained him until police arrived.
3 min read
10 October, 2016
The Syrian was accused of possessing explosives [Getty]

German police have arrested a bomb suspect with the help of two Syrian asylum seekers after a two-day manhunt, Berlin has said.

Authorities tightened security at airports and train stations after 22-year-old Jaber al-Bakr slipped through the police net Saturday when they raided his apartment and found several hundred grams of "an explosive substance more dangerous than TNT".

Police finally got their man with the help of another Syrian, whom Bakr approached at the train station in the eastern city of Leipzig, seeking shelter, according to Spiegel Online.

The Syrian man allowed Bakr to stay at his apartment but when police arrived, they found the suspect tied up.

"We've succeeded, really overjoyed," tweeted police early Monday. "The terror suspect al-Bakr was arrested overnight in Leipzig."

He was believed to have had online contact with the Islamic State group, reported the Sueddeutsche Zeitung daily.

According to security sources quoted by the Sueddeutsche, he had built "a virtual bomb-making lab" in the flat in a communist-era housing block and was thought to have planned an attack against either one of Berlin's two airports or a transport hub in his home state of Saxony.

Police had said that "even a small quantity" of the explosives "could have caused enormous damage".

Local media reported that the material was TATP, the homemade explosive used by militants in the Paris and Brussels attacks.

Serious act of violence 

Acting on a tip-off from the domestic intelligence agency, police commandos had sought to swoop on the Syrian early Saturday at his apartment building in the eastern city of Chemnitz, about 85 kilometres (53 miles) from Leipzig.

But he narrowly evaded police, local media said.

Bakr's flatmate in Chemnitz was formally taken into custody Sunday - a day after being detained - as a suspected co-conspirator of a "serious act of violence".

The Syrian man allowed Bakr to stay at his apartment but when police arrived, they found the suspect tied up.

Police commandos on Sunday also raided the Chemnitz home of another suspected contact of Bakr, blasting open the door and taking away a man for questioning.

Spiegel said Bakr had entered Germany in February 2015 and two weeks later filed a request for asylum, which was granted in June that year.

On edge

Germany has been on edge since two IS-claimed attacks in July - an axe rampage on a train in Wuerzburg that injured five, and a suicide bombing in Ansbach in which 15 people were hurt.

The bloodshed has fuelled concerns over Germany's record influx of nearly 900,000 refugees and migrants last year.

Heightening public fears, German police say they have foiled a number of attacks this year.

In late September, police arrested a 16-year-old Syrian refugee in Cologne on suspicion he was planning a bomb attack in the name of IS.

A week earlier, they detained three men with forged Syrian passports who were believed to be a possible IS "sleeper cell" with links to those behind the November Paris attacks.

German authorities have urged the public not to equate refugees with "terrorists" but have acknowledged that more militants may have entered the country among the asylum seekers who arrived last year.

Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative CDU party on Monday called for greater rights for secret services to carry out checks on asylum seekers.

"We see that the German secret service and federal intelligence service have no access currently to the main files of applicants," the deputy leader of CDU's parliamentary group, Michael Kretschmer, told local broadcaster MDR.

"That needs to change, we want the German secret services to have access to these files," he added.

Separately, the vice-chief for Germany's Federation of Police Officers, Sebastian Fiedler, urged the EU to improve its information exchange system.