Suspected terror plot thwarted in Germany

THREE suspected Islamic terrorists nursing “profound hatred of US citizens” were arrested on suspicion of plotting massive bomb attacks on US facilities in Germany, prosecutors said yesterday.

A senior US state department official said German investigators had determined the Frankfurt International Airport and nearby US Ramstein Air Base were the primary targets of the plot.

It was the second time in as many days that European officials said they had thwarted a major attack, following the arrest by Danish authorities on Tuesday of eight alleged Islamic militants with links to al-Qaida terrorists.

German Federal Prosecutor Monika Harms said the three suspects, two of whom were German converts to Islam, had trained at camps in Pakistan run by the Islamic Jihad Union. They had obtained some 1,500 pounds of hydrogen peroxide for making explosives.

The suspects had an eye on institutions and establishments frequented by Americans in Germany, including discos, pubs and airports.

The senior state department official said the threat had been a major reason the US Embassy in Berlin had boosted security and issued two warnings in April and May about possible impending attacks.

Deputy state department spokesman Tom Casey declined to discuss the potential targets.

The suspects appeared at a closed hearing at the Federal Court of Justice in Karlsruhe, which ordered them held pending trial.

Officials said the solution of hydrogen peroxide could have been mixed easily with other additives to produce a bomb with the explosive power of 1,200 pounds of TNT.

“This would have enabled them to make bombs with more explosive power than the ones used in the London and Madrid bombings,” said Joerg Ziercke, head of the Federal Crime Office.

The three suspects — two Germans aged 22 and 28, and a 29-year-old Turk — first came to the attention of authorities because they had been caught observing a US military facility in Hanau, near Frankfurt, at the end of 2006, officials said.

Meanwhile, restricting liquids passengers can take on board flights has proved ineffective and should be lifted, according to the European Parliament.

A majority of MEPs voted to repeal the legislation on liquids imposed last year following British security forces warning they had uncovered a plot to blow up a plane using liquid explosives.

They argued that the costs and inconvenience of the rules were out of proportion to the risk.

Fine Gael MEP Avril Doyle said: “There is substantial inconvenience caused to passengers, especially transit passengers, with no discernible security benefit. 10ml x 100ml containers legitimately brought through security screening could then be pooled into a one litre bottle legitimately purchased airside and brought onboard. So what does the present security restriction of 100ml containers achieve?”

However EU Justice Commissioner Franco Frattini disagreed with them and said that citizens’ right to life was the most fundamental right and had to take precedence and that security measures were working.

Mr Frattini will propose next month further security measures. These will include having an EU-wide Passenger Name Records (PNR) system. Currently basic data on passengers flying from the EU is passed on to the US authorities but the commission plans to share this information among themselves also.


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