German terror suspects 'plotted death on 9/11 scale'

Four men accused of a foiled German terror plot were fuelled by hatred and aimed to cause destruction on the scale of September 11, a court heard today.

“The defendants were driven by the will to destroy the enemies of Islam - particularly US citizens – in Germany and to reach the scale of the September 11 attacks,” prosecutor Volker Brinkmann said as he opened the trial at Duesseldorf state court.

The four, two Germans and two Turks, were moved by “profound hatred of the USA as the greatest enemy of Islam,” said another prosecutor, Ralf Setton. He said they aimed to kill “as many people as possible.”

The group planned car bomb attacks on pubs, discos and airports, and considered targets in cities including Frankfurt, Dortmund, Duesseldorf, Cologne, Stuttgart, Munich and Ramstein – where the US military has a large air base.

They maintain the attacks were to be carried out before an October 2007 vote by the German parliament on extending German troops’ stay in Afghanistan.

Three of the men, alleged ringleader Fritz Gelowicz (aged 29),Daniel Schneider (aged 23) and Adem Yilmaz (aged 30) were arrested at a cottage in central Germany on September 4, 2007.

Turkey picked up the fourth, 24-year-old Attila Selek, in Turkey in November 2007 and later extradited him to Germany.

Gelowicz and Schneider are both Germans who converted to Islam.

All the suspects are accused of being members of the radical Islamic Jihad Union, an offshoot of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan.

The movement was responsible for co-ordinated bombings outside the US and Israeli embassies in July 2004 in the Uzbek capital, Tashkent. Members have been trained in explosives by al Qaida and the group has ties to Osama bin Laden and fugitive Taliban leader Mullah Omar.

The German cell had stockpiled 1,600lbs of highly concentrated hydrogen peroxide, purchased from a chemical supplier, and could have mixed it with other substances to make explosives equivalent to 1,200lbs of dynamite.

But German police had been watching them and covertly replaced all of the hydrogen peroxide with a diluted substitute.

No formal pleas are entered under the German system.

The trial in a high-security courtroom is scheduled to last at least until the end of August.

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