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Germany

Hijacker Wanted to Get al-Qaeda Prisoners Released

Police in Germany say a 17-year-old youth who hijacked a bus in Bremen on Friday and later surrendered to the authorities, wanted to secure the release of four al-Qaeda prisoners through the act.

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Hijack drama on German motorway.

Mystery still surrounds the motives of the 17-year-old Lebanese-born youth who hijacked a bus with 15 passengers on board in the northern German city of Bremen on Friday.

The armed hijacker entered the bus in downtown Bremen on Friday morning, threatened the driver with a pistol and forced him to head on to the A7 motorway. Several hostages were released along the way.

The hijacker turned himself in to the police after a tense four hour chase on the motorway leading towards Hanover as police cars and ambulances tailed the bus, finally forcing it to stop. All the remaining hostages were freed unharmed.

"Islamic" motives suspected

Police sources now say that the youth planned to force the release of four prisoners of the al-Qaeda terrorism network through the hijacking.

Bremen’s state attorney Uwe Picard said that the parents of the 17-year-old had warned the police on the morning of the incident, that their son was possibly planning some "nonsense". They are believed to have found letters, which indicated that their son wanted to fight against Israel as a "martyr".

Bremen’s interior minister, Kuno Böse spoke of an "Islamic" background to the act. State Attorney Picard however said that the motives of the young man remained unclear. The hijacker had demanded the release of four captured al-Qaeda operatives, Picard said at a press conference.

Among the prisoners is Ramzi Binalshibh, who is widely believed to be one of the planners of the Sept. 11 2001 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington. Police say the 17-year-old regularly visited a mosque in Bremen, which is estimated by federal constitution authorities as a "terrorist" establishment.

One of the first fallouts from the hijacking has been an announcement by Lower Saxony’s Interior Minister Uwe Schünemann of the conservative Christian Democrats that applications for naturalizations within the state will henceforth be checked carefully.

"In future federal authorities for the protection of the constitution will check out the applicant before naturalization – a process that’s already in place in Bavaria," Schünemann said in a newspaper interview.

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