Crime: terrorist attack planned? 20-year-old still in custody

He is said to have planned to attack visitors to a Christmas market: The police in Lower Saxony are investigating a 20-year-old on suspicion of a planned terrorist attack.

Crime: terrorist attack planned? 20-year-old still in custody

He is said to have planned to attack visitors to a Christmas market: The police in Lower Saxony are investigating a 20-year-old on suspicion of a planned terrorist attack.

The investigators see the Christmas market in Hanover as a possible target - “we cannot rule that out at the moment,” a spokesman for the Lower Saxony State Criminal Police Office told the German Press Agency. According to the LKA, the man remains in police custody.

More arrests

Most recently, two young people aged 15 and 16 were arrested in North Rhine-Westphalia and Brandenburg for allegedly planning an attack on a Christmas market. The 20-year-old, in turn, was taken into custody in Helmstedt on November 21st. According to the State Criminal Police Office, the police had received information that the suspect from Saxony-Anhalt was planning a serious act of violence. The LKA did not want to give further details for tactical reasons.

According to information from security circles, the young Iraqi, who had only been in Germany since last year, is said to have thought about attacking visitors to a Christmas market with a knife. The Federal Prosecutor's Office is investigating charges of supporting a terrorist organization abroad.

Worried about visiting the Christmas market?

Lower Saxony's Interior Minister Daniela Behrens previously told NDR about the suspect: "He has announced that he obviously wants to carry out attacks in conjunction with major events during the Christmas season, and that is why we have taken him into preventive custody."

With regard to the security situation at Christmas markets, Behrens said that the police there were "very clear and robust" - among other things because of the armed conflict in the Middle East. “We still have Islamists,” she emphasized.

According to the Lower Saxony Ministry of the Interior, there is currently no concrete risk situation, but a "high abstract risk". The Gaza war has worsened the security situation nationwide. All Christmas markets have a security concept, and increased police presence should also secure the markets. A ministry spokesman spoke of a “very volatile security situation”.

The Hanover Police Department said that an “appropriate number of emergency services” were on the move there at the Christmas market. A so-called mobile guard should serve as a contact point for visitors who want to file reports or give information to the police. This year, the Christmas market will also be monitored with several cameras in the old town area.

Based on IS approaches

The two young people from North Rhine-Westphalia and Brandenburg who were arrested on suspicion of terrorism are in custody. They are said to have sympathized with the terrorist organization Islamic State (IS). According to the Düsseldorf Public Prosecutor's Office, they are said to have agreed to kill visitors to a Christmas market in Leverkusen by exploding a small truck at the beginning of December.

The 15-year-old arrested in North Rhine-Westphalia is said to have already obtained gasoline, but no fuel was found during searches. There was a “very concrete thought model” for planning the crime, said senior public prosecutor Holger Heming. However, there is no information that the two had obtained a small truck.

According to the Düsseldorf public prosecutor's office, the young people are said to have planned their attack based on the goals and procedures of IS. We were talking about ideologically aligned sympathizers, not about actual membership or actual contact.

According to the public prosecutor's office, the younger man is accused, among other things, of conspiring to commit a crime, namely dastardly murder for base motives, and of preparing a serious act of violence that endangers the state.

The alleged planning of the young people - the 15-year-old is a German-Afghan, the 16-year-old has Russian citizenship - is reminiscent of the attack on December 19, 2016 at the Memorial Church in Berlin. At that time, an Islamist terrorist drove a truck into the Christmas market. A total of 13 people died, one of them as a result years later.

Germany-wide threat situation

According to the Lower Saxony Ministry of the Interior, preventive detention can initially last a maximum of 14 days according to the state's police law after a judge's decision. This can be extended for a further 14 days following review by a judge. In order to avert danger, a final extension of seven days is possible.

The Bremen police also announced that the security authorities currently had no information from which a concrete threat could be derived specifically for Christmas markets in Bremen. However, the threat situation in Germany and Europe remains unchanged; Christmas markets are particularly important because of the expected high number of visitors, the mostly central location and open access options. The Bremen police security concept also provides for protection against crossing crimes and the use of various barriers.

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