Three Islamist terror suspects have been arrested in Germany, under suspicion of plotting bomb attacks on Frankfurt Airport and the US military air base at Ramstein.
The three men were arrested in Medebach-Oberschledorn in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia on Tuesday afternoon. Around 20 police were involved in the arrests, and there are reports that shots were fired. According to the Associated Press, the three men were staying in a vacation apartment. Local newspaper Hessische-Niedersächsische Allgemeine reported that police from Germany's elite GSG-9 unit had stormed the flat. Raids also later took place in other federal states, according to media reports.
According to information obtained by SPIEGEL ONLINE, the three men were Daniel S. from the state of Saarland and Fritz G. from Neu-Ulm in Bavaria, both of whom are German converts to Islam, as well as Adem Y., who is believed to be from Turkey. The three, who had apparently founded a terrorist cell, have been under intensive investigation for several months. All three men were considered radical Islamists and had contact with Islamist groups in Germany and Pakistan.
The investigators spontaneously made the arrests on Tuesday afternoon after the men were observed moving chemicals that could be used to make bombs from one storage location to another. Police believe that the men wanted to experiment in the coming days and weeks with the chemicals and possibly start building a bomb. They were, however, far away from making a bomb that could be detonated.
The choice of targets was also not yet fixed. As well as Frankfurt Airport and Ramstein Air Base, the men had apparently also discussed other locations, such as a nightclub. The preparations for the attacks were, however, at an early stage.
The group was treated very seriously by German investigators right from the beginning. US authorities were also informed about the threat and raised the security level at their facilities as a result.
A spokesman for the Office of the Federal Prosecutor confirmed the arrests to SPIEGEL ONLINE early Wednesday morning. Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung also confirmed the arrests in remarks to the German broadcaster ARD. "There was an immediate threat," he said, without going into details.
The suspects are due to appear before the Federal Court of Justice later on Wednesday.
With reporting by Matthias Gebauer