German Police Foil Terrorist Attack on September 11 | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 08.09.2002
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German Police Foil Terrorist Attack on September 11

German police have arrested an American woman and her Turkish boyfriend near the city of Heidelberg on suspicion of planning an attack on the first anniversary of the terrorist attacks on September 11 in America.

German police have been on high alert in the lead-up to the September 11 anniversary

German police have been on high alert in the lead-up to the September 11 anniversary

German officials are saying that a couple arrested on Thursday near Heidelberg believed to be planning a terrorist attack on the city's historic center and nearby American military installations were likely acting on their own, without any connections to Al Qaeda or any other international terrorist network.

"Based on what we know so far, we are dealing with an individual who has shown no indication of participation in a terrorist network," Federal Interior Minister Otto Schily told reporters on Saturday. "It seems that we are dealing with a dangerous individual with an Islamic background."

Police arrested a 24-year-old man of Turkish descent and his American girlfriend on Thursday evening. Investigators are reported to have unearthed a large amount of explosives in the couple’s apartment.

Thomas Schäuble, interior minister for the state of Baden-Württemberg said in Stuttgart, "We have evidence that an attack was planned for 11 September". He said that targets included American military bases in Heidelberg as well as the historic heart of the city.

Strict Muslim and Hatred of Jews

The minister also said that the Turkish suspect, who was born in Germany appeared to a follower of Osama Bin Laden.

"He is a deeply religious Muslim and harbours a hatred for Americans and Jews."

Schäuble said that the man’s 23-year-old American girlfriend, who worked in a supermarket in one of the many US military installations in the area, had also shown a hatred for Jews.

Huge cache of explosives discovered

Investigators who stormed the couple’s apartment on Thursday found a large amount of raw explosives and about 130 kilograms of chemicals and electronic equipment in the couple’s apartment.

The interior ministry in Baden-Württemberg said that the material was suitable for making bombs. Investigators also discovered a picture of Al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden, Islamic literature and five pipe-bombs that had already been assembled.

Germany’s Bild newspaper reported that the man was caught red-handed handling chemicals on his balcony.

The man worked at a chemical warehouse in nearby Karlsruhe. Schäuble said it still remained unclear whether the arrested was acting in isolation or belonged to a larger group. The man was being interrogated, but was not being co-operative, he said.

Tip-off by girlfriend

The German news magazine, Spiegel said that the investigators were tipped-off about the attacks planned by the couple, by a girlfriend.

The 23-year-old American, who has both German and American citizenship, is believed to have warned a girlfriend, shortly before her arrest, to stay away from the US supermarket in the American barracks where she worked because something "would soon take place there".

About 16,000 US soldiers and their families who are stationed in Heidelberg usually shop in the supermarket.

The girlfriend is reported to have alerted US military police, who in turn warned German police.

Germany central player in terrorist investigations

The arrest comes at a time when German authorities have been on high alert in the lead-up to the anniversary of the September 11 attacks in the US.

Earlier this week, German Interior Minister Otto Schily had said that he had no information about attacks being planned in the country, though he did not rule out the possibility.

Germany has played a key role in the investigation into the September 11 attacks which killed more than 3,000 people, after it was discovered that three of the hijackers had lived and studied in the German city of Hamburg.

German arrested in US on suspicion of terrorism

Meanwhile, in the United States, the FBI is reported to have arrested a 39-year-old German in New York on suspicion of terrorism.

The man is of Afghan descent and possesses a German passport. He is being questioned by US officials.

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