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Homemade Bombs Found on German Railway

DW staff (sac)August 2, 2006

German federal prosecutors are investigating a possible terrorist link to two unexploded bombs discovered in Dortmund and Koblenz. The devices could have caused serious injury or death if they had exploded.

A specialist carries out part of the bomb from the Dortmund train stationImage: AP

Germany's Federal Prosecutors Office in Karlsruhe said on Tuesday it was looking into two incidents, in which luggage with propane gas was found in the western German cities of Dortmund and Koblenz.

"Because of the proximity in time of the two discoveries of explosives, we are investigating an unknown perpetrator and possible membership of a terrorist group," the Federal Prosecutors Office said in a statement.

The authorities said they were still investigating whether the suitcase bombs had been similar to one another or were capable of detonating.

Abandoned suitcases contained the bombs

The railway station in the western city of Koblenz was evacuated Tuesday afternoon after lost-and-found staff noticed a gas canister inside a bag that had been handed in the previous day.

On Monday, bomb-disposal experts used water jets in the city of Dortmund to dismantle a suitcase containing a timer, propane gas and gasoline. A train conductor had found that suitcase Monday afternoon behind a seat on the lower deck of a double-decker train that shuttles a three-hour route between the cities of Aachen and Hamm.

The conductor handed the bag in to the lost-and-found office in the Dortmund train station, where staff called police after looking inside.

Prosecutors said the 11-liter (three-gallon) canister of propane gas and nearly five liters of gasoline inside could have injured or killed train passengers if it had exploded in a crowded wagon.

Motives still unclear

Dortmund police said they remained uncertain whether the device had actually been primed to go off. Jürgen Kleis, head of the team of detectives on the case, said in Dortmund that German police had never had a case like it and the first step would be to profile possible offenders.

The bomb construction was "professional" Kleis added.

"We can't rule out many possibilities based on our current investigations: a political motive, a criminal one or a private one," Kleis said.

Dortmund police were not even sure at what time of day the suitcase was left on the train, which had been on the move since dawn.

Last year a businessman, who had tried to extort money from a German bank, was jailed for 12 years for leaving a bag packed with explosives in Dresden railway station in mid-2003. His detonator malfunctioned and that bomb failed to explode as he had planned.