Germany Widens Probe Into Bomb Plot

By Craig Whitlock
Washington Post Foreign Service
Friday, September 7, 2007

BERLIN, Sept. 6 -- Authorities said Thursday that they are investigating at least seven more people suspected of aiding a multinational cell of Islamic militants plotting to bomb American interests in Germany, including two who may have trained at camps in Pakistan.

Prosecutors said they had identified five of the alleged helpers, mostly Turkish and German nationals. But they said they were still trying to decipher the aliases of others who might have assisted three men arrested Tuesday as they transferred bombmaking chemicals from a rented house in the German village of Oberschledorn.

According to prosecutors, the three defendants in custody had traveled to Pakistan last year to train in camps run by the Islamic Jihad Union, a Central Asian group affiliated with al-Qaeda. Investigators said two other supporting members of the German ring may have trained in Pakistan as well.

Other evidence has surfaced recently indicating that Europeans are being recruited to attend camps operated by a variety of Islamic militant groups along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

In June, the Taliban circulated a DVD among local journalists in Pakistan that purported to show a training camp graduation ceremony. Among the 250 graduates were more than a dozen white-skinned young men. One Taliban figure in the video was identified as the leader of a small group of German recruits, according to a copy of the video viewed by a Washington Post correspondent.

The primary speaker at the ceremony was Mansour Dadullah, a leading Taliban commander. "Oh, Americans and your allies, these suicide bombers are going to chase you in your countries," he said.

Authorities said Thursday they were confident that they had broken up the group accused of plotting attacks against Americans and that it no longer posed a security risk.

"We are trying to identify all of those who were working in the shadows," Deputy Interior Minister August Hanning told ARD public television.

The arrests Tuesday shocked many Germans, particularly because two of the suspects were native-born Germans who had converted to Islam, including one named Fritz. The case also stoked a long-standing debate over whether German lawmakers need to give police more leeway to snoop on suspects and make it a crime to train at militant camps outside the country.

The three defendants have been charged with membership in a foreign terrorist organization, an offense that was not made a crime until after an al-Qaeda cell in Hamburg planned and carried out the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States.

Authorities had been aware for several months that the three had trained in Pakistan and returned to Germany, but said they didn't have sufficient evidence for a strong court case until recently.

"We have to be able to prosecute those people who went to terrorist camps to commit attacks in Germany," Johannes Schmalzl, president of the domestic intelligence service for the southern state of Baden-Wuerttemburg, told the magazine Der Spiegel.

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2007 The Washington Post Company