Jaber Albakr, who was granted asylum in Germany, is suspected of preparing a bomb attack in the country with high explosives, was captured early Monday in the eastern city of Leipzig, following a nearly two-day manhunt. Authorities sad that intelligence agencies had been watching him since September and that he appeared to have ties with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant(ISIL, also known as ISIS) group.
Leipzig is around 80 kilometers from Chemnitz, the city where he had evaded authorities on Saturday. When police raided the apartment where he was thought to be staying, Albakr was able to flee. Inside the apartment they found 1.5 kilograms (3.3 pounds) of extremely dangerous explosives and components. The suspect approached his fellow countrymen at the Leipzig main train station and asked them if they could accommodate him, and they agreed.
Saxony criminal police chief Joerg Michaelis said the three Syrian refugees recognised Albakr from a wanted poster that had been distributed online, tied him up in their apartment and called police, ending a nearly two-day hunt.
Police would not release any further information about the three Syrians, citing security concerns.
“If the indications of an Islamic extremist background were substantiated, “the people who gave the tip are of course in danger”, said Mr Michaelis.
Germany on Monday hailed three Syrians who helped police capture Albakr, with social media coming alive with jibes against anti-migrant protesters.
“Syrian turns in terror suspect. I’m celebrating this. What about you, Pegida and co?” said Julia Frick on Twitter, in reference to the Islamophobic movement that has been ranting against migrants in the eastern city of Dresden.
Federal prosecutors, who handle terrorism investigations in Germany, said in a statement Monday they had no indications that a target already had been chosen for an attack. Hans-Georg Maassen, the head of the domestic intelligence agency, later told ARD public broadcaster that their investigation suggests the suspect had “an eye on the Berlin airports” as potential targets.
A 33-year-old Syrian identified as Khalill A, at whose Chemnitz apartment police found the hidden explosives was arrested over the weekend and is considered a co-conspirator in the alleged bomb plot, prosecutors said.
The explosives were described as similar to the ones used in the deadly Nov. 13 attacks in Paris and the March 22 attacks in Brussels. Known as TATP, or triacetone triperoxide, it is fairly easy to make and detonate, police said.
“According to everything we know today, the preparations in Chemnitz are similar to the preparations for the attacks in Paris and Brussels,” German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said.