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The Syrian heroes of Leipzig

Fabian von der Mark
October 11, 2016

For days, police special forces had been hunting Jaber Albakr. But in the end he was arrested by three Syrians - who have now become the heroes of their neighborhood. Fabian von der Mark reports.

Leipzig - Jihard Darwech
Image: DW/F. von der Mark

Jihad can mean holy war. But it's also the name of the Syrian man from Leipzig, who is now standing on a street corner in a tracksuit top and baseball cap. During the night he heard a helicopter, the next morning he heard the news: Syrians had handed over the wanted terrorist suspect Jaber Albakr.

"Then I knew it was going to be a good day," Jihad Darwech said.

Syrians guarding Germany's most wanted man

Jihad lives only a few meters away from the house in which Germany's most wanted man was arrested at one o'clock in the morning. The police didn't encounter much resistance: at the time, Jaber A. was bound and lying in an apartment on the fourth floor of a high-rise building. He was guarded by Syrians. 

Jihad still switches back and forth between German and English. He has been in Germany for 18 months and goes to German classes every day. Even though he considers the action of his fellow countrymen to be an act of bravery - it doesn't surprise him: "99 percent of Syrians in Germany are good people and would fight against terrorists for Germany any time. There is an Arabic saying: If you offer me your house, I will offer you my blood. The Germans have helped us – in a hundred years we won't forget that.”

Deutschland Syrer nach Sprengstoffund in Chemnitz gesucht
Police released this photo of the 22-year-old refugee and asked the public for help in tracking him downImage: picture-alliance/dpa/Polizei Sachsen

Bound, photographed – and reported

Jihad greets a fellow Syrian with a smile. A German boy walks past, takes a look at the broadcasting vans and says proudly: "This is my hood." "Respect!" is the word on the street. Even Chancellor Merkel in Berlin has praised the courage and commitment of the neighbors. They keep going over what has happened and sharing new details with each other about the heroes. It apparently all started quite innocently. The Syrians just wanted to be helpful. "If someone needs a place to sleep, of course you offer it to them," said Jihad.

And that is just what they did. When they were back at home it dawned on Jihad's neighbors and his friends whom they had invited: Jaber Albakr the producer of dangerous explosives. They called the police, but they couldn't make themselves understood. They then tied up Jaber Albakr and photographed him. One of them then took this photo to the police. At the station the officers finally understood what the Syrians were talking about – and more importantly whom they were talking about.

No police chase

After that things happened quickly. There was a helicopter, a patrol car and an arrest. This time things were different, compared to last Saturday morning in Chemnitz. Then Jaber Albakr was able to escape, because he surprised police special forces by fleeing from the surrounded house. They had difficulty chasing him in their protective uniforms, which weigh 30 kilos. But by the time the police got to the apartment most of the work had been done. "They had tied him up like a parcel," said a state criminal policeman later. 

Jihad is not sure he would have left it at just tying up the suspect. It makes him incredibly angry that a Syrian would take on the guise of a refugee to plan terrorist acts. But he and his peaceful compatriots don't want to allow one percent of Syrians to ruin the reputation of all the others.

"Even if it was my brother or my son. I would immediately report anyone who wants to harm Germany to the authorities." Jihad came to Leipzig with his wife and his two children from Damascus. "When I see them here, sleeping peacefully, I know what Germany has done for me." Three Syrians have become Saxon heroes in the fight against terror - but today Jihad is just purely happy. He just wants to add one more thing that is important to him: Jihad is an absolutely normal name in Syria.