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German police have conducted raids in and around Frankfurt targeting suspected "Islamic State" members. Among those arrested is a Tunisian suspected of involvement in the 2015 Bardo Museum terror attack in Tunis.
Police carried out multiple pre-dawn raids in the state of Hesse on Wednesday, targeting dozens of properties and arresting a Tunisian suspected of creating a network planning a terror attack in Germany. Prosecutors also said the 36-year-old male was suspected of playing a role in the 2015 terror attack on the Bardo Museum in the Tunisian capital.
The raid involving some 1,100 police targeted 54 homes, businesses and mosques. Sixteen suspects aged between 16 and 46 years old are under investigation for being members of a foreign terrorist group and planning to carry out attacks, authorities said. Prosecutors said the plans were in the early stages and there was no indication that a specific target had been selected.
The prime suspect, a Tunisian man, has been under suspicion since August 2015, when he arrived in Germany as an asylum seeker. He is suspected of being a recruiter and smuggler for the so-called "Islamic State" (IS) and building up a network to plan and carry out terror attacks.
He had already lived in Germany from 2003 to 2013, but returned in August 2015 using an alias, prosecutors said. In August 2016, he was then arrested to carry out the remainder of a previous 2008 sentence for bodily harm. Once his 43-day sentence was finished the Tunisian was detained pending deportation to his homeland.
During this time Tunisia sought his extradition. But after Tunisia failed to provide documents within the required timeframe, authorities were forced to release him in November 2016 after the maximum 40 days in pre-deportation detention, prosecutors said. He was then kept under 24-hour police surveillance.
Tunisian authorities suspect the man was involved in planning and carrying out the 2015 terror attack on the Bardo Museum in Tunis, which killed more than 20 people, mostly foreign tourists. He is also suspected of involvement in an attack on the border town of Ben Guerdane in March 2016.
Tunisian authorities on Wednesday were reported to have requested the man's extradition.
The raids in Hesse came hours after police arrested three people suspected of links to IS at a Berlin mosque late Tuesday. Anis Amri, the Tunisian who killed 12 people in an attack on a Berlin Christmas market on December 19, also had links to the mosque, authorities said.
A number of terror attacks in Germany over the past year prompted a crackdown on suspected terror networks and a review of security policy.