BERLIN — Police on Wednesday arrested an asylum seeker from Tunisia on suspicion of plotting an Islamic State-linked terrorist attack in Germany in a case that is drawing parallels with a deadly Christmas market attack.
The 36-year-old suspect was also wanted by Tunisian authorities in connection with a 2015 attack on the Bardo National Museum in Tunis, which killed more than 20 people, and an Islamic State attempt to take control of the Tunisian border town Ben Gardane last year.
But Germany’s attempts to extradite the suspect to Tunisia were hampered by a lack of cooperation from Tunisian authorities, Frankfurt’s general prosecutor said in a statement Wednesday. Details of the suspect’s alleged role in the Tunisian museum attack and the border clashes were not immediately disclosed.
The arrest in the central state of Hesse again highlighted tensions between Germany and Tunisia over the deportation of rejected asylum seekers. Germany has cited delays by Tunisia in issuing the necessary documents.
The reported complications received widespread attention after another rejected asylum seeker from Tunisia, Anis Amri, plowed a truck into the Berlin Christmas market on Dec. 19 , killing 12 people. German authorities received Tunisian documents to clear the way for Amri’s deportation two days after the attack.
The Tunisian arrested Wednesday arrived in Germany as an asylum seeker in August 2015 after having already lived in the country between 2003 and 2013.
Just as in the case of Amri, German authorities detained the suspect and attempted to return him to Tunisia, where he was sought for alleged terrorism links. But he had to be released before German authorities were able to repatriate him. German law currently allows a maximum of 40 days for pre-extradition detention, and Tunisia failed to provide the necessary documents in time, the Frankfurt prosecutor said.
“We are calling on the Tunisians to act more cooperatively when it comes to the return of their nationals, which they are obliged to under international law,” Hesse’s interior minister, Peter Beuth, told reporters.
Beuth said the arrest was made as part of a series of widespread raids targeting 16 suspects between the ages of 16 and 46. The other suspects are being held for questioning, the interior minister said.
While Beuth did not give further details, the Frankfurt prosecutor’s office said it was investigating a 17-year-old German Iraqi and a 16-year-old German Afghan suspected of joining or attempting to join Islamist militant groups in Syria and Iraq. Police raided more than 50 apartments, businesses and mosques in the region.
Following the Berlin Christmas market attack, the German interior and justice ministers proposed extending pre-deportation detention for up to 18 months if a person is considered a potential danger to the public.
On Wednesday, the German cabinet also agreed on a legislative change that, if approved by parliament, would allow police to use electronic ankle bracelets to monitor individuals deemed a terrorist threat, even if they have not been convicted of any crime.