With the arrests of three suspected Islamist terrorists on Tuesday , German investigators may have foiled a plot to cause massive explosions -- but their work is far from over. They are still looking for at least seven other named suspects in connection with the case -- and want to find them as soon as possible. And they are also trying to discover the identity of two men located abroad, who they know only by aliases and e-mail addresses.
The Federal Prosecutor's Office is investigating the seven other men for membership in a terrorist organization. The cell of ten radicals is made up of Turks and some Germans who have converted to Islam. They are thought to have set up their own branch of the Uzbek "Islamic Jihad Union" (IJU) and to have started to plan terrorist attacks on US targets in Germany. The three arrested suspects had all been at training camps in Pakistan and possibly met members of the IJU there.
The investigators are also focusing on two unknown people, who they only know by their aliases. Based on intercepted e-mails with Fritz G., one of the three suspects arrested on Tuesday, German authorities think the two men may have been the masterminds behind the planned attacks. They are believed to be in Pakistan, and the e-mails show that they didnt seem to give specific orders to the German cell but rather acted as mentors.
Fritz G., thought to be the ringleader, attempted to avoid detection by not sending e-mails directly, but by putting them in a drafts folder that could be accessed by both sides. It was an old trick, used by the men who planned the Sept. 11 attacks -- and one that the German authorities quickly saw through.
In fact the intelligence agencies had been reading Fritz G.'s e-mails since spring 2007. The communications included discussions of possible targets for attack, as well as logistical details.
The authorities are still not sure about the structure of the German terror cell. One theory is that there was an inner and outer circle, with some members not knowing the exact details of the bomb plot.
The authorities are now looking for a 22-year-old Turk, Zafer S. who was born in the same town as one of the arrested men, Daniel S. He left the country recently and is thought to be in Turkey. He is also believed to have been in a Pakistan training camp. The authorities are also looking for three Turkish men, who are acquaintances of Fritz G.
And investigators are also looking for the Lebanese Hussein al-M., who was arrested along with the German Islamist Tolga D. on the Pakistan-Iran border in June. He was expelled from Pakistan and arrived at Frankfurt airport on Tuesday, where he was interviewed by police before being released. Now the police would like to have a few more words with him.