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Opinion

Opinion: Good Syrians, bad Syrians?

A terror suspect from Syria has been arrested in Leipzig - thanks to some brave fellow Syrians. Both supporters and opponents of refugees are using the incident as ammunition, writes Nina Werkhäuser.

There has been high praise for the Syrians who tied up their fugitive fellow countryman and handed him over to the police. Recognition has come not only on social media, but from the very top, as well: German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is currently traveling in Africa, has conveyed her thanks to them. Without their courageous intervention, it's unlikely that the terror suspect - 22-year-old Jaber Albakr, who came to Germany as a refugee - would have been caught so quickly.

From what we know so far, the situation was an extremely risky one. The suspect was allegedly in contact with the terrorist militia known as "Islamic State." He was also in possession of quantities of the highly volatile explosive TATP, with which he could have carried out a devastating attack. TATP was used in the terrorist attacks in Paris and Brussels. The explosive is difficult to make; it had already been mixed when the police secured it on Saturday at an apartment in Chemnitz. They had to dig a hole specifically in order to carry out a controlled explosion.

Ammunition for both sides - polarization remains

There followed an anxious weekend: The police were hunting Jaber Albakr, who was on the run - until the fellow countrymen with whom he sought shelter in Leipzig called the police.

Nina Werkhäuser Kommentarbild App

Nina Werkhäuser is a DW correspondent in Berlin

They did the right thing, and they deserve the recognition they're being given. They have also taken a considerable personal risk. The police are keeping their identities secret for security reasons: They believe they could be targeted in revenge attacks.

Their brave actions have done nothing, however, to change the attitude of people stirring up hatred of all refugees without differentiation. Online, the "pro and anti" battle continues unabated. Both sides are using the incident as ammunition: One is calling for the "good Syrians" to be awarded Germany's Order of Merit, while rabble-rousers voice the absurd supposition that the sequence of events leading to the arrest were staged by the Chancellor to turn the national mood in the refugees' favor.

Looming danger of terrorism

The events are overshadowed by the fear that a new terrorist attack could be launched in Germany. There have been a series of arrests of supposed refugees who were in contact with the "IS" extremist group or were planning attacks. The case of Jaber Albakr. has made this fear concrete once again. Many people who could be a potential threat are known to the security services - but not all of them. This latest arrest may have foiled a serious terrorist attack and that is a success. The risk, however, remains.

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