3 Iraqi refugees arrested in Germany over attack plot

German police commandos arrested three Iraqis suspected of planning a terror attack. (AFP)
Updated 30 January 2019
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3 Iraqi refugees arrested in Germany over attack plot

  • Searches were carried out at other residences in northern and southwestern Germany
  • Prosecutors allege the two men decided in late 2018 to carry out an attack motivated by extremism in Germany

BERLIN: German authorities arrested three Iraqi refugees on Wednesday on allegations they were planning an extremist bombing attack, and searched properties in three states in connection with their investigation.

Federal prosecutors said Shahin F. and Hersh F., both 23, and Rauf S., 36, were taken into custody in an early morning raid by a police SWAT team in the area of Dithmarschen, near the border with Denmark.

The suspects, who had refugee status in Germany, had been under surveillance for some time by a task force of around 200 investigators, said Holger Muench, the head of Germany’s federal police.

The case shows that the threat of radical terrorism is still present, Muench told reporters.

It was not immediately clear when the suspects came to Germany.

More than 1 million asylum-seekers entered Germany in 2015-16, most from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. The involvement of several asylum-seekers in extremist attacks or plots has helped boost support for the anti-migrant Alternative for Germany party.

Searches were carried out at other residences in northern and southwestern Germany of people linked to the three main suspects but not currently to the bomb plot.

The two younger men are suspected of preparing a bomb attack and violating weapons laws, and the older one is alleged to have aided them. Their last names were not given in line with German privacy laws.

The men appear to have been in the early stages of planning, said Frauke Koehler, a spokeswoman for the Federal Prosecutors Office.

“We believe that Shahin F. and Hersh F. were firmly committed to carrying out an attack,” she told reporters. “But ... according to our information the concrete target and timing of the attack weren’t determined yet.”

Prosecutors allege the two men decided in late 2018 to carry out an attack motivated by extremism in Germany. There are indications that they sympathized with Daesh, but Koehler said there was no evidence so far the men were members of, or directed by, the group.

In December, Shahin F. downloaded “various instructions” on how to build a bomb, and ordered a detonator from a contact person in Britain, prosecutors said. Its delivery, however, was stopped by British law enforcement agencies.

At the same time, the two carried out tests using around 250 grams of gunpowder extracted from New Year’s fireworks, and asked Rauf S. to procure a firearm, prosecutors said.

He is alleged to have contacted Walid Khaled Y.Y., also an Iraqi, who offered them a Russian semi-automatic Makarov 9mm pistol, prosecutors said. But the seller wanted at least €1,200 ($1,370) for the weapon, which was considered too expensive so it was not purchased.

Y.Y.’s home in the Schwerin area was searched as part of Wednesday’s operation, and he is being investigated for alleged weapons and drug violations, prosecutors in the state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania told The Associated Press.

In preparation for the possibility of using a vehicle in the attack, Shahin F. started taking driving lessons, federal prosecutors said. All three appear before federal judges late on Wednesday to decide whether they should be kept in custody while the investigation continues.

Koehler said authorities received a tip about the alleged plot in late 2018 from Germany’s domestic intelligence service, but did not say how the agency started tracking the suspects.

In the only mass casualty extremist attack in Germany, Tunisian asylum-seeker Anis Amri hijacked a truck in 2016 and drove it into a crowded Christmas market in Berlin, killing 12 people and wounding dozens. Daesh later claimed responsibility.

Since that attack, Muench said police had foiled seven planned attacks.


Moroccan police use water cannons to disperse teachers’ protest

Updated 51 min 12 sec ago
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Moroccan police use water cannons to disperse teachers’ protest

  • Authorities were trying to end a rally of an estimated 15,000 teachers in front of parliament
  • Teachers across the country have been striking for three weeks in a row

RABAT: Moroccan police used water cannons early on Sunday to disperse thousands of young teachers protesting in the capital Rabat for better work conditions, a witness said.
Authorities were trying to end a rally of an estimated 15,000 teachers in front of parliament where they planned to spend the night ahead of an even bigger demonstration called by a coalition of leftist opposition parties, unions and civil society groups.
Policemen in anti-riot gear moved into action after negotiations between officers and teachers to ask protesters to leave the area broke down after several hours.
Authorities had offered to send busses to drive them to places where they could spend the night, teachers said. They had been chanting “Liberty, dignity, social justice.”
There was no immediate comment from the police or the government.
Some teachers said they were protesting against contracts on which they have been hired. They are demanding full benefits and pensions like regular public servants.
Teachers across the country have been striking for three weeks in a row.
Of the country’s 240,000-strong teacher workforce, 55,000 have been hired since 2016 under a new contract system.
Morocco has come under pressure from international lenders to trim the civil service wage bill and strengthen the efficiency of the public sector.