BERLIN, Oct 10, (Agencies): A Syrian man who came to Germany during a migrant influx into the country last year was arrested on Monday after a weekend manhunt on suspicion of planning an Islamist bomb attack, Saxony state police said. Police had been looking for 22-yearold Jaber Albakr since he evaded them during a raid on Saturday on an apartment in the eastern German city of Chemnitz, where they found several hundred grammes of explosive.
“Tired but overjoyed: we captured the terror suspect last night in Leipzig,” Saxony state police said on Twitter, adding that they seized Albakr after acting on a tip-off that other Syrians were holding him at an apartment in Leipzig. “Leipzig police immediately went to the identified place and took Albakr,” they said. A nationwide and international search for the Syrian was then called off.
Der Spiegel magazine’s website, without citing a source, said Albakr had approached another Syrian at the railway station in the eastern city of Leipzig and asked if he could sleep at his home. The man agreed and later called police, who arrested Albakr at the home at 12:42 a.m. on Monday (2242 GMT Sunday). Albakr had arrived in Germany last year and won recognition as a refugee from his homeland’s civil war, police said.
A spokesman for the Federal Prosecutor’s Office told broadcaster SWR on Sunday: “The overall picture of the investigation, in particular the amount of explosive found, suggests that the person was planning to carry out an Islamist-motivated attack.” That will prove unwelcome news for Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose conservatives have lost support to the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party over her open-door policy towards refugees and migrants. Stephan Mayer, a senior lawmaker with Merkel’s Bavarian allies, the Christian Social Union (CSU), said Germany’s security agencies needed to be consulted more intensively in the authorities’ handling of refugees. “Germany is in the crosshairs of Islamist terror, just like France, Belgium or Britain,” Mayer told television station n-tv.
“The threat is still high, though there are no concrete indications of planned attacks. We must be very careful.” Merkel said last month she wished she could “turn back the time by many, many years” to have better prepared for last year’s influx of almost 1 million migrants. She has yet to say whether she will seek a fourth term as chancellor in elections next year. In July, the Islamic State militant group claimed responsibility for two attacks in the western German state of Bavaria – one a train near Wuerzburg and the other at a music festival in Ansbach that wounded 20 people.
Western Europe has suffered several major Islamist attacks since early last year, prompting a tightening of public security measures across the continent. Islamic State gunmen killed 147 people in Paris in January and November last year, a gunman drove a truck into Bastille Day revellers in the French Riviera city of Nice in July, killing 86, and suicide bombers killed 32 people in Brussels in March. Germany on Monday hailed three Syrians who helped police capture a compatriot suspected of planning a jihadist bomb attack, with social media coming alive with jibes against antimigrant protesters.
“Syrian turns in terror suspect. I’m celebrating this. What about you, Pegida and co?” said Julia Frick on Twitter, in reference to the Islamophobic movement that has been ranting against migrants in the eastern city of Dresden.
Another Twitter user took a dig at the right-wing populist Alternative for Germany (AfD), which has been running an aggressive campaign against asylum seekers. “Syrian turns in terror suspect tied up to police — that’s precisely the kind of citizen watch that AfD and Pegida like to drone on about,” tweeted Florian Flade.
Another using the handle Kraftklub quipped that “the foreigners are taking jobs away from police”, turning around a common stereotype used by anti-migrant politicians. “Detained terrorists: Pegida and company: 0, refugee: 1,” said another user with the handle likedeeler. After it emerged on Saturday that a Syrian refugee was wanted for amassing explosives in his apartment in the eastern town of Chemnitz, concerns were running high that this could place asylum seekers under a cloud of suspicion.
The arrival of 890,000 refugees last year has deeply polarised Germany, and misgivings against the newcomers run particularly deep in eastern excommunist states like Saxony. But the tide turned somewhat Monday when it emerged that the suspect, Jaber Albakr, was turned in to police by three of his compatriots.
Chancellor Angela Merkel led praise for the Syrians, with her spokeswoman Ulrike Demmer pointing to “recognition for the Syrian who informed police about the suspect’s whereabouts”, leading to his arrest. The deputy chief of the Federation of Police Officers, Sebastian Fiedler, also called it a “very positive sign that shows that one must not place all refugees under suspicion”.
Meanwhile, others took a dig at police for not immediately pointing to the contribution of the Syrian informants in their first tweet announcing the arrest. “Syrian turns Syrian in to police. And Saxony police is celebrating itself on Twitter,” grumbled a user called ergu28.
Meanwhile, other Syrian refugees voiced relief that their fellow countrymen had caught the fugitive. Jihad Darwish, 47, who lives near the Syrians who overpowered Albakr, stressed that “not all Syrians are like” the terror suspect. Lauding the man who who overpowered and restrained the suspect, Darwish said: “That guy is a hero.”