Two Iranian brothers aged 32 and 25 were arrested during a night-time anti-terror operation in the Ruhr area because they are said to have tried to obtain poison for an Islamist-motivated attack. At least when the 32-year-old's apartment was searched in Castrop-Rauxel on Sunday night, the corresponding toxins cyanide and ricin were not found. This was announced by a spokesman for the public prosecutor's office in Düsseldorf.
According to the Attorney General, the suspicion was initially directed against the 32-year-old. The 25-year-old was also in his apartment. It was initially unclear how concretely the possible attack plans had progressed and what a possible target would have been.
Perpetrators wanted to kill "an undetermined number of people".
An arrest warrant was issued against the brothers last night, as the dpa learned from investigators. The two men are accused, among other things, of procuring the toxins for an Islamist-motivated attack and thus wanting to kill "an unspecified number of people". The investigators see the brothers as suspected of preparing a serious act of violence that is dangerous to the state and of conspiring to commit a crime, namely murder.
As the dpa learned from security circles, it is suspected that the 32-year-old is a supporter of a Sunni Islamist terrorist group. He is said not to have acted on behalf of Iranian state authorities. The latter was also confirmed by the spokesman for the Düsseldorf public prosecutor's office. He went on to say that there were indications of an Islamist-influenced worldview, which resulted in an attack being planned.
Arrests after a tip from the USA
The German investigators had become active because of a tip from colleagues in the United States: There was a tip from a US security agency, said the spokesman for the Attorney General's Office. They got the information about the 32-year-old on Saturday and came to the conclusion that a search warrant had to be obtained and executed immediately. NRW Interior Minister Herbert Reul (CDU) said: "We had serious information that prompted the police to intervene that night."
The investigators struck around midnight. The scene was cordoned off over a wide area. Many emergency services wore protective suits. Evidence was brought in blue barrels to a decontamination point at the fire brigade, as reported by a dpa reporter.
RKI employees on duty
According to a report by "Bild", employees of the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) were also on site as consultants because of the biological and chemical dangers for the emergency services. Several employees of the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) and a defuse commando were also deployed. The investigators secured evidence such as electronic storage media. These would now have to be evaluated, said the spokesman for the Attorney General's Office.
Weapons were not found. In addition to the man's apartment, outbuildings such as basement rooms were also searched.
According to security circles, the 25-year-old was previously known to the police, but for reasons unrelated to Islamist terrorism. The men are said to have both been in Germany since 2015. When they were arrested, they were only scantily clad and led across the street into an emergency vehicle, eyewitnesses reported. Neither of them resisted. According to the investigators, there are no other suspects according to current knowledge.
Ricin and cyanide are highly toxic
According to the RKI, the highly toxic ricin is listed under "biological weapons" in the war weapons list. Cyanide is also highly toxic, even the smallest amounts are fatal to humans. Four years ago, investigations in Cologne showed just how dangerous ricin is: a Tunisian and his German wife had produced the chemical there and set off test explosions. A foreign secret service became suspicious and gave a tip. Both were sentenced to long prison terms.
An expert report showed that, purely arithmetically, 13,500 people could have died from the amount of poison. With the planned spread by a cluster bomb spiked with steel balls, it would have killed around 200 people.
Federal Interior Minister Nancy Faeser (SPD) does not see the danger of Islamist attacks in this country averted against the background of the operation. According to a statement from her ministry, Germany is still in the immediate target range of Islamist terrorist organizations. Islamist-motivated individual perpetrators are another significant danger. "Our security authorities therefore expect preparations for an attack at any time." Since the year 2000, the authorities in Germany have prevented 21 Islamist attacks.
Dependence on US intelligence
Terrorism expert Peter Neumann said on the fringes of the CSU state group retreat: "This threat is less than it was six or seven years ago, but it still exists. One mustn't forget that." He pointed out that in almost every terror plan that has been uncovered in recent years, the key clue has come from US intelligence services. Germany is still very dependent on America's secret services when it comes to fighting terrorism internally.
The Greens interior expert Konstantin von Notz told the newspapers of the Funke media group: "Once again it becomes clear that with all current, very serious threats from the militant, well-networked right-wing extremism, we are by no means aware of the dangers emanating from Islamist perpetrators from the lose sight and be allowed to underestimate."