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Terrorism

Court jails al Qaeda-linked Düsseldorf cell members

Four men have been jailed over a planned deadly attack in Germany, with the ringleader given a nine-year prison sentence. The trial of the al-Qaeda-linked cell has been going on for more than two years.

The Düsseldorf Higher Regional Court on Thursday imposed jail terms of between four-and-a-half years and nine years for four men found guilty of plotting terrorist attacks in Germany. The men were associated with the al Qaeda terrorist group.

The prosecution claimed the four - who have remained silent throughout almost two-and-a-half years of the trial - had plotted to detonate a crude cluster bomb in the middle of a large crowd in Germany. The intention had been to detonate a second bomb once emergency services arrived.

Emails outlining the plan were found on the hard drive of a computer at the home of deceased al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, the prosecution said. The men were arrested three days before bin Laden was killed by a team of US Navy Seals in May 2011.

The surveillance program PRISM, run by the US National Security Agency, is believed to have tracked down the al Qaeda cell in Germany, with the US tipping off German intelligence. A special German commission known as "Comet" kept the suspects under round-the-clock surveillance. Their phones were tapped and special programs used in order to read their emails.

"Oh, our Sheikh, we are upholding our promise. We will begin the slaughter of the dogs," the suspected members of the so-called "Düsseldorf cell" were said to have written in an email to al Qaeda sheikh Younis Al Mauritani.

Barbecue lighters for bombs

The men purchased a suspiciously large amount of barbecue lighters - ostensibly to extract the chemical hexamine, which can be used to make bombs. The arrests were finally made when investigators feared the bomb-making factory in an ordinary residential apartment block posed a danger to the public.

The alleged leader of the group was 33-year-old Moroccan, Abdelabdim El-K. He is thought to have come to Germany in 2001 and to have attended a training center in the Afghan-Pakistani border region in 2010. He was sentenced to nine years for plotting the act. The other defendants found guilty of membership of a terrorist organization were 34-year-old German-Moroccan Jamil S, who received a seven-year jail term, 23-year-old German-Iranian Amid C., jailed for five years, and 30-year-old German Halil S. who was sentenced to four-and-half years.

Defense lawyer Johannes Pausch attempted to weaken the presentation of the prosecution's case by highlighting supposed procedural failures. The public prosecutor's office, which had requested jail terms of no less than six years, countered that sufficient evidence had been gathered in a legal manner.

rc/ksb (dpa, Reuters)

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