German Police Hunt For Ten Terror Suspects

German police are hunting for 10 terror suspects believed to have been involved in a foiled plot to bomb Frankfurt Airport, US military bases, discotheques and pubs frequented by Americans in Germany in the lead up to the anniversary of the terrorist strikes in the United States on September 11, 2001.

Three suspects are already in custody – two German converts to Islam and a Turkish national – after they were arrested and reportedly found to be in possession of 1,500 lbs. of hydrogen peroxide, which German prosecutors say would have had the explosive power of 1,200 lbs. of TNT.

Germany’s chief prosecutor, Monika Harms, said the planned series of car bombings would have caused a massive loss of life. “We have stopped what would certainly have been the worst terror attacks in Germany,” she said.

Jorg Ziercke, head of Germany’s Federal Crime Office, said the explosives “would have been enough to cause damage on a greater scale than in London and Madrid”. The train and bus bombings in London (July 2005) and the train bombings in Madrid (March 2004) killed 56 and 191 people, respectively, and wounded nearly 3,000.

The suspects were reportedly motivated by a “deep hatred of US citizens” and aimed to claim as many lives as possible in the coordinated attacks.

The three men in custody – named only as Daniel S, Fritz G and Aden Y – are all aged in their twenties. They recently aroused the suspicion of German authorities when they were seen loitering around a US military base in Hanau, near Frankfurt. After weeks of surveillance, they were arrested on Tuesday afternoon in a rented house in Sauerland, 60 miles east of Dusseldorf, when Germany’s elite GSG-9 anti-terrorist unit stormed the house, fearing that a major terrorist attack was imminent.

Two of the suspects were apprehended immediately. The third slipped out of a bathroom window but was caught 300 yards away by police who had cordoned off the area. Following the arrests, police raided homes across Germany and seized money and computers.

The men arrested are believed to have received terrorist training in Pakistan before setting up a German cell of the Islamic Jihad Union, a now-obsolete Sunni Muslim terrorist group formerly based in Uzbekistan and linked to al Qaeda.

Their list of targets for the planned terrorist attacks included Frankfurt Airport, Germany’s busiest airport, and Ramstein air base, the Pentagon’s largest air base outside of America. Other US military bases were apparently also identified, along with ‘soft’ targets that included discos and pubs known to be popular with Americans in Germany.

US intelligence officials were kept informed of the developments in Germany, but did not participate in the operation. FBI spokesman Richard Kolko said the FBI and US Department of Homeland Security were monitoring the situation but stressed that they “see no imminent threat to the US domestically following these arrests”.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel hailed the arrests as a “very, very great success”. Thanking German security officials, she also said, “This shows that terrorist dangers, in our country as well, are not abstract but are real. It also shows for me that international cooperation is of decisive significance in the fight against terrorism.”

US National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe said that US President George Bush was pleased that a potential attack had been averted and also thanked German authorities.

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