A 32-year-old man was arrested during a night-time anti-terror operation in the Ruhr area because he is said to have procured the toxins cyanide and ricin for an Islamist-motivated attack. At least when the Iranian's apartment was searched in Castrop-Rauxel on Sunday night, no toxins were found, according to a spokesman for the Düsseldorf public prosecutor's office. The investigators did not initially answer whether he had actually come across poison and whether it was stored elsewhere.
Before the deployment, there was a tip from a US security agency, a spokesman for the Düsseldorf public prosecutor told the German Press Agency. 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.
It was initially unclear how concretely the possible attack plans had progressed and what a possible target would have been. That is still the subject of the investigation, said the spokesman for the Attorney General's Office. The 32-year-old Iranian is suspected of preparing a serious act of violence that is dangerous to the state.
As the dpa learned from security circles, it is suspected that he 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.
RKI employees involved in the operation
Anti-terror investigators searched the 32-year-old's apartment on Sunday night and arrested him. It was initially unclear whether and when the man should be brought before a magistrate. "We had a serious tip that prompted the police to intervene that night," said North Rhine-Westphalia's Interior Minister Herbert Reul (CDU). According to the spokesman for the Attorney General, the reference to the 32-year-old came from an authority in a “friendly state”. The “image” had initially reported on this.
The investigators struck around midnight. The scene was cordoned off over a wide area. Police, fire brigade and rescue workers were on site with a large contingent. Many emergency services wore protective suits. Evidence was brought in blue barrels to a decontamination point set up by the fire department, a dpa reporter reported.
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.
The brother of the 32-year-old, who happened to be in the apartment when the police attacked, was also arrested during the operation. As the dpa learned from security circles, this was known to the police beforehand, but for reasons unrelated to Islamist terror. It is not yet clear whether he was privy to the alleged attack plans. 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.
Tips from foreign intelligence
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: in a 15-story building in the high-rise district of Chorweiler, a Tunisian and his German wife produced the chemical 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.