Two weeks after a Tunisian man, Anis Amri, whose German asylum request had been rejected, rammed a truck into a Berlin Christmas market and was later shot dead by Italian police, the German state prosuector’s office said on Monday that a Syrian migrant who arrived in Germany two years ago was arrested on suspicion of seeking money from the Islamic State, to drive truck bombs into crowds.
Saarbruecken prosecutor Christoph Rebmann said the 38-year-old Syrian was detained on Saturday in his apartment in Germany’s Saarland State, and an arrest warrant was issued on Sunday on suspicion that he was trying to raise 180,000 euros ($189,000) to fund an attack. Rebmann said the man, whom he did not name, was suspected of seeking the money from Islamic State in Syria to buy trucks and load 400-500 kg (880-1,100 pounds) of explosives into each of them. “He is suspected of … requesting 180,000 euros from a contact person in Syria on his cell phone from Saarbruecken in December, 2016 so that he could acquire vehicles to pack with explosives and drive them into a crowd,” Rebmann said. It was not clear if the Islamic State in Syria, which has been facing a severe liquidity shortage since its oil operation was virtually eliminated by Putin, had that kind of spare change.
According to a separate statement by Saarland police, the Syrian suspect asked for the ISIS money to finance an “unspecified terrorist attack” in “Germany, France, Belgium and the Netherlands.”
Saarland Deputy Police Commissioner Hugo Muller said that the Syrian man planned to repaint the vehicles as police cars. “In his respective communications with contacts linked to IS, he [the suspect] offered or suggested to repaint cars to make them look similar to police cars, load them with explosives, position them in a crowd of people and then detonate them,” Muller said.
The Prosecutor’s office announced that the suspicion of plotting a terrorist attack are based on a chat in the online messenger Telegram, which was found in the telephone of the suspect during a search of his house. “So far the investigation has found no evidence that the suspect had already prepared [booby trapped] cars to carry out the attacks,” authorities noted though. The man admitted to making contact with the Islamic State, but has denied he had any plans to stage an attack.
“He said he wanted the money from ISIS to support his family back in Syria,” Rebmann told Reuters, adding that the Syrian had said he wanted to fool the jihadist group into sending him the money.
The Syrian came to Germany on Dec. 5, 2014, just before a wave of more than 1.1 million asylum-seekers arrived from the Middle East, Africa and Asia in 2015. He was given permission to stay in Germany on Jan. 12, 2015, and originates from the Syrian is from the city of Raqqa, the Islamic State’s de factor capital. According to Reuters, the prosecutor’s office in Saarbruecken, near the French border, had been alerted to his activities by the BKA federal crime office.
Suggesting a shift in Germany’s “Open Door”approach to refugees, Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said that failed asylum seekers who are regarded as a danger should be detained until they can be deported. He made the suggestion in a guest column in Tuesday’s edition of the Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper.
Both he and Merkel have plenty of reasons for concern: political analysts, conservative allies and diplomats have said a major terrorist attack in the coming months could damage Merkel’s hopes of winning a fourth term in September’s election. The far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party has blamed her policies for the Dec. 19 Berlin attack as well as previous terrorist attacks on German soil.