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Germany

Berlin in dispute over calls for tighter refugee checks after Chemnitz bomb plot arrest

Following the arrest of an 'IS' bomb plot suspect, German conservatives are calling for stricter security measures. Authorities believe that a Syrian refugee, Jaber Albakr, was planning an attack at a Berlin airport.

Faced with the arrest of a Syrian refugee on the suspicion of plotting a terrorist attack, Germany's Conservative Union - made up of German Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) and their Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU) - is calling for more stringent security checks on asylum seekers.

"Every asylum seeker in Germany must be checked with every international terror suspect database," CSU politician Hans-Peter Uhl told German paper "Die Welt" on Tuesday.

"The secret services should finally get full automatic access to core data banks of asylum seekers," he added.

Germany's Social Democrats (SPD) and the Left Party rejected calls for the secret services to have more power, however.

"It was quite sufficient at the time that reception agencies, foreigners and asylum seekers authorities, the Federal Agency for Labor, the authorities responsible for job-seeking agencies, as well as registration authorities had access to the core data system of asylum seekers," Katja Kipping, chairperson of the Left Party, told the "Die Welt."

"We live in a state of law in which laws apply to all," Kipping added.

Watch video 00:38

German police arrest suspected bomb plotter

Sufficient legal foundation

Vice leader of the SPD faction Eva Högl also told "rbb-Inforadio" that she saw "absolutely no need for action" and that Germany already has "sufficient legal foundation."

"We shouldn't act all populist and actionist after every incident, as if our security agencies weren't adequate," Högl said.

"I think this is dangerous because it signals to the population that we don't have everything we need - and that's not true."

In fact, a BAMF spokeswoman told DW that although individual interviews had been replaced with multiple-choice questionnaires during the height of the bureaucratic crisis caused by last year's influx of refugees, the authority currently carries out interviews with anyone applying for asylum in Germany.

Even during the crisis, she added, individual interviews were carried out in all cases where a refugee's identity could not be established.

Högl also rejected demands from the Union to allow arrests on the grounds of someone being a "danger to public security and order." The measure would allow authorities to detain of known suspects as a precaution.

"You can't just imprison any person who could potentially be dangerous," said Högl.

Bomb plot suspect Jabar A.

Bomb plot suspect Jabar A. was arrested after three Syrian compatriots detained him in Leipzig

Explosives found in Chemnitz

The dispute over increased security checks on refugees was prompted by Monday's arrest of bomb plot suspect and Syrian refugee Jaber Albakr.

During a raid of Jaber Albakr's apartment in Chemnitz on Saturday, police discovered a highly volatile substance. Earlier that day, the suspect was seen buying glue in a one-euro store.

"We have assumed that this might be the last chemical ingredient he needed to make a bomb," Germany's domestic intelligence chief Hans-Georg Maaßen said.

German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere added that the preparations in Chemnitz were "similar to those for the attacks in Paris and Brussels."

During the raid on Saturday, however, Jaber Albakr was able to flee from police, prompting a two-day manhunt which ended in nearby Leipzig.

Left Party politician and Vice Chairman of the Parliamentary Secret Service Control Group, Andre Hahn criticized the police operation for failing to arrest Jaber A.

"It definitely wasn't their finest hour," Hahn said in an interview with "Bayerische Rundfunk."

Anti-terror police at Berlin Schönefeld Airport

German authorities believe that bomb plot suspect Jabar A. was planing an attack at a Berlin airport

Syrian aid police in arrest

Jaber A.'s eventual arrest on Monday has been largely credited to three Syrian refugees who apprehended the suspect in an apartment, north of Leipzig city center.

After offering Jaber Albakr emergency accommodation, the three men recognized the man and managed to constrain him in their apartment.

"They had tied him up like a parcel," a state criminal policeman later said. 

In an interview with German broadcaster "ZDF" on Tuesday, Maaßen said that authorities received information early last month that IS was planning to attack train stations or airports in Germany.

"We received intelligence that he initially planned to attack trains in Germany," Maaßen said. "Later, the plans became more specific and directed at airports in Berlin."

Three months on since a series of violent incidents in Germany, the country remains on edge. In July, 10 people were killed in Munich after a teenager opened fire in a  shopping mall. Several of the incidents - with also included a detonated suicide bomb and an ax attack - were carried out in the name of 'IS,' prompting concerns that Germany could soon be the target of a major attack.

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