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World

Germans Detain Five People in Possible Terror Plot

Authorities say the group may have been planning bomb attacks. The detentions come after Paris authorities discovered traces of the poison ricin at a train station.

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Police raided the Al-Nur mosque in Berlin, which also houses the offices of an Islamic community group.

German authorities have acted to stop a group of people suspected of planning terrorist attacks that would be carried out in retaliation for the U.S.-led war against Iraq.

Prosecutors raided six buildings in the German capital of Berlin, including the Al Nur mosque and offices of the Berlin Islamic Community, officials said on Thursday evening. They also detained five people for questioning.

The raid was one of two actions police in Europe took this week in cases related to possible terrorist activity. French officers found traces of the deadly poison ricin in two small bottles left in a train station baggage depot this week, authorities announced on Thursday.

Group suspected in bomb plot

The German investigation is being coordinated by the Federal Prosecutor General Kay Nehm. His office said authorities thought the suspects were trying to recruit Arab students with the aim of forming an "Islamist terrorist association" that would carry out bombings timed to coincide with the start of the war on Iraq

Authorities did not provide any details about the suspects names or nationalities.

Nehm told the German news magazine Focus earlier this month that terrorists could use the outbreak of war as a trigger for terrorist attacks. Even though Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's government is firmly opposed to the U.S.-led military strike on Iraq, Germany could well be a target for Islamic militant groups because of its role in the global hunt for al Qaida members. In February, a Hamburg court sentenced the Moroccan Mounir El Motassedeq to 15 years in prison for his involvement with the Hamburg-based terrorist cell to which some of the hijackers who carried out the 2001 attacks in the United States belonged. And earlier this month, a Frankfurt court convicted four Algerians of conspiracy to murder for planning a bomb attack on a Christmas market in Strasbourg, France.

Ricin found at the Gare de Lyon

In France, police are also on high alert in case of possible terrorist attacks. They found the traces of ricin during a security sweep at the Gare de Lyon train station on Monday. Authorities said they still didn't know who left the poison there. But French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy said on Friday that a terrorist threat could be one possible explanation. "One can make a link, but we have no proof as it stands," Sarkozy told French radio. He added that the amount of ricin found was a "non-lethal quantity" and that authorities had "no specific information to show that France is a target."

The ricin announcement came on the same day that judicial sources said police had arrested two suspected Islamic radicals linked to a Chechen network thought to be recruiting fighters for the breakaway republic and planning terror attacks in France.

Ricin hit world headlines last January, when British police discovered a stash of ricin during a raid on a London apartment. Three men were charged with plotting to produce chemical weapons in connection with the incident.

The substance is a toxin that can be easily and cheaply derived from castor plant beans, grown worldwide. Many times more deadly than cyanide, the chemical could cause death between three to five days if inhaled or ingested, but is not inevitably fatal. Ricin is included on the B list of bio-warfare agents that was developed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and is therefore classed as a moderate threat. Although it is highly toxic, ricin is more suited for killing individuals rather than masses of people on a battlefield or in a city.

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