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Germany

Politicians respond with shock and dismay after Albakr's Leipzig jail death

Germany's interior ministry has demanded a "fast and comprehensive explanation" for how Jaber Albakr was able to commit suicide under surveillance. The Syrian had allegedly been planning a terror attack.

The Saxony state justice ministry confirmed Thursday morning that Jaber Albakr was found dead in his Leipzig jail cell after committing suicide.

Thursday's press conference came after officials from the German federal justice ministry had announced the news: 

"On the evening of October 12, 2016, Jaber Albakr, who was suspected of planning a serious attack, took his life in the detention center at Leipzig correctional hospital," the ministry said in a statement, adding that an investigation has been launched.

Saxony's police force are now under immense pressure to explain how Albakr was able to allegedly hang himself despite being on suicide watch.

The eastern state's authorities already faced a backlash of criticism over the weekend after failing to arrest Albakr during a police raid at his Chemnitz home on Saturday.

In an interview with the ZDF breakfast show "Morgenmagazin" on Thursday, German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said, "What happened last night demands a fast and comprehensive explanation."

The Christian Democrat (CDU) warned, however, against speculation about the events.

Several other politicians also expressed their dismay at Albakr's death, with many of them commenting on Twitter.

Katrin Göring-Eckhardt, chairwoman of the Green Party faction, tweeted: "When all you think is #NotSaxonyAgain."

Social Democrat (SPD) Johannes Kahrs wrote: "What's going on again in Saxony? Ridiculous."

Kahrs' fellow SPD colleague Niels Annen said he was "speechless," while Saxony Green politician Claudia Maicher described the incident a "disaster."

'Justice scandal'

On hearing of Albakr's death on Wednesday, his state-appointed defense lawyer Alexander Hübner called the case a "justice scandal."

Polizei Sachsen Fahndungsbild Jaber Albakr (Polizei Sachsen)

Jaber Albakr was found dead in his Leipzig jail cell after committing suicide

"I'm incredibly shocked and absolutely speechless that something like this could happen," Hübner said, adding that the prison was aware that Albakr's risk of suicide had been noted in the log.

"He'd already shattered lamps and fiddled with electric sockets," Hübner told "Focus Online."

On Wednesday afternoon, the prison warden reportedly confirmed to Hübner by phone that Albakr would be "constantly watched" in solitary confinement.

'Leipzig's Syrian heroes'

The Syrian refugee was arrested on Monday after three compatriots tied him up and alerted authorities. The three men reportedly invited the fugitive to stay in their apartment, only to realize shortly later that Albakr was being sought after by police. 

During a raid on Albakr's Chemnitz flat two days earlier, police found 1.5 kilograms of TATP. The home-made explosive was the same used in the deadly jihadist attacks in Paris in November and Brussels last March.

Hans-Georg Maassen, the head of Germany's domestic intelligence service, said Albakr was preparing to carry out an attack on a Berlin airport within days before the raid on his apartment.

Security fears

Albakr arrived in Germany last year and had been granted asylum after passing security checks. Investigators say they believe he was motivated by the "Islamic State" and may have become radicalized while in Germany. 

The thwarted plot has renewed focus on security in Germany, with conservative politicians demanding more stringent background checks on asylum seekers. In 2015, Germany took in 890,000 refugees, many of whom arrived from Syria.

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