Terror Scare German Police Hunt Second Bomb Suspect

Video camera footage led to the rapid arrest of a Lebanese student accused of trying to bomb a regional train last month. Police are hunting for a second suspect as authorities warn that Germany is as much a target for terrorists as other countries. The case has triggered a debate about whether Germany needs more surveillance cameras and tougher security checks at stations.

German police are mounting an intense hunt for a second suspect involved in a failed plot to blow up trains last month after they arrested a 21-year-old Lebanese student over the weekend, identified with the help of security camera footage.

Both men had been filmed carrying large bags onto a platform on Cologne's main train station on July 31. They placed them on two regional trains but the crudely made bombs consisting of gas cylinders failed to detonate.

Authorities published the security camera film of the two men last Friday and the first suspect was arrested a day later in the main train station of the northern city of Kiel. He has been named as Youssef Mohamad E. and was remanded in custody by an investigating judge on Sunday on suspicion of belonging to a terrorist group and attempted murder. He has been studying electronics in Kiel and has lived in Germany since September 2004.

Federal prosecutors said his fingerprints and DNA traces had been found on one of the suitcase bombs. The second man remains at large. Jörg Zierke, president of the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA), said the errors made in building the first two bombs may now have been corrected and that a new attack may be planned.

He said the plot, carried out at the end of July, may have been intended as a "massive gesture of threat with destruction and potentially with human casualties" in the context of the war in Lebanon.

August Hanning, state secretary in the interior ministry, said: "My impression is that there were several people cooperating in the background." He said the ministry planned to expand the use of video surveillance in Germany.

An increased risk of terror in Germany

Germany employs far fewer video cameras than Britain, for example, where entire city centers and most buses are covered by cameras. Civil rights campaigners have expressed concern about expanding such surveillance.

Interior Minister Wolfgang Schäuble has said the plot shows Germany is as much at risk from terrorist attacks as other countries. Over the weekend train services were disrupted as a result of false alarms caused by abandoned suitcases and hoax calls at stations in Hamburg, Bonn, Koblenz, Ludwigshafen and Magdeburg.

The case has also led to calls from various politicians for armed guards ("train marshalls" on trains and even airport-style security checks at stations.

The makeshift bombs, consisting of gas cylinders, plastic bottles filled with gas and detonators, were found in suitcases placed on regional trains in western Germany on July 31, 2006. The devices were discovered when the trains stopped in the cities of Koblenz and Dortmund. The detonators made of alarm clocks and lightbulb components functioned but failed to trigger the bombs. If the bombs had gone off they would have sent shockwaves and a fireball through the carriages and may have caused the train to derail, police said.

The arrested suspect lived in a student hostel. Fellow residents described him as pious, inconspicuous, polite and "totally normal". Media reports said he had been trying to flee to friends in Denmark and that German police had been tipped off by a foreign intelligence service which had monitored a mobile phone conversation.

He was arrested after coming out of a fast food restaurant at Kiel station just before four o'clock on Saturday morning.

cro/dpa/afp/ap

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