The three terrorist suspects arrested in Germany early Friday morning were in the midst of planning a terrorist attack against a large crowd somewhere in Germany, according to Rainer Griesbaum, a deputy federal prosecutor,
The three were detained in police raids in Düsseldorf and Bochum in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia after authorities decided that they might be getting close to carrying out the attack.
One of the three suspects had been drafted by al-Qaeda in 2010 to launch an attack in Germany, investigators said.
The principal suspect and apparent ringleader of the group, a 29-year-old Moroccan and college dropout whose name was given only as Abdeladim El-K., had been living illegally in Germany since 2010.
The other two men were identified as 31-year-old Jamil S., who holds dual German and Moroccan citizenship, and Amid C., a 19-year-old student with German and Iranian citizenship.
Griesbaum said El-K. had attended an al-Qaeda terror camp in the Waziristan region of Pakistan in early 2010 and returned to Germany in May of that year.
The man had contacts in Austria, Morocco and Kosovo, said Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) chief, Jörg Ziercke, and his group of accomplices consisted of seven to eight people and possibly more.
Targets were being assessed
The three were still in the "experimental phase," Griesbaum said at a press conference on Saturday after their arraignment in federal court in the southern city of Karlsruhe. They had not yet chosen a target, he said, but had been asked by al-Qaeda leaders to carry out a terrorist attack.
Investigators said the suspects were considering a number of targets where large crowds gather, such as bus stops and subway stations.
The newspaper Bild reported that the Eurovision Song Contest, scheduled for May 14 in Düsseldorf, was a possible target.
There have been reports that a large quantity of explosive materials were discovered at the time of the arrests and that the suspects had purchased chemicals for constructing a detonator for the explosives.
Griesbaum said investigators also found evidence that the men were plotting to use an explosive device laced with metal shards.
The BKA worked closely with the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, Germany's domestic intelligence service, state police and foreign authorities in its investigation, said German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich. Friedrich said the suspects had been under surveillance since April 15.
According to the weekly news magazine Der Spiegel, America's CIA and the Moroccan intelligence service had also been involved in the operation.
Investigators reportedly classified the dimension of the case as comparable to the so-called Sauerland group of four Islamists who were arrested in 2007 on suspicion of planning a bomb attack in Germany.
Author: Gregg Benzow (dpa, AP, Reuters)
Editor: Kyle James