Germans Thwart Plot Against U.S. Base
3 Terror Suspects Arrested In Alleged Plot Against Ramstein, Frankfurt International
BERLIN, Germany, Sept. 5, 2007 An unidentified man believed to be a terror suspect, center, wearing handcuffs, is led away at the German Federal Court in Karlsruhe, southern Germany, Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2007. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)
we know without any doubt that they were planning attacks that would have had considerable consequences."
(CBS/AP) Three suspected Islamic militants were arrested for allegedly plotting "imminent" and "massive" attacks on a major U.S. Air Force base in Germany and Frankfurt International Airport, one of Europe's busiest, German authorities said Wednesday.
German federal prosecutor Monika Harms said the three had trained at camps in Pakistan and procured some 1,500 pounds of hydrogen peroxide for making explosives.
"This is a good day for security in Germany," she said.
A top legislator said an attack could have occurred "in a few days," noting a "sensitive period" that includes the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.
"There was an imminent threat," German Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung said earlier. Prosecutors in Karlsruhe said two of the suspects were German and the third was from Turkey.
Roughly two million Turks lived in Germany as of 2004 - and the area of the arrests holds the country's largest Turkish population, reports CBSNews.com's Christine Lagorio from Berlin.
Prosecutors said the arrests took place on Tuesday afternoon, and that police had also carried out searches across the country. The suspects are to be brought before a judge later Wednesday.
Lagorio said local media were reporting the arrests took place Tuesday afternoon in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, about 100 miles north of Frankfurt.
Around 20 police were involved in the arrests, and there were reports of shots fired during the operations, reported Lagorio.
German and U.S. officials have warned of the possibility of a terrorist attack, and security measures have been increased.
Navy Capt. Jeff Gradeck, spokesman for the U.S. military's European Command in Stuttgart said German authorities had contacted them concerning the alleged plot, but had no further information.
"We extend our gratitude to Germany for their efforts in protecting us," Gradeck said.
The arrests come a day after Denmark's intelligence service arrested eight Islamic militants (external - login to view) linked to leading al Qaeda figures in anti-terror raids in the Danish capital, according to the head of the agency.
The men, between ages 19 and 29, were suspected of preparing a terror act involving explosives, said Jakob Scharf, the head of Denmark's PET intelligence service.
German authorities gave no indication early Wednesday of any links to the arrests in Denmark. The two countries share a short border where northern Germany meets the south of Denmark.
Wolfgang Bosbach, a top legislator for Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats, said that "the suspects had been under observation by security officials for a long time"
"Consequently, we know without any doubt that they were planning attacks that would have had considerable consequences," he told N24 television, adding that the three had acquired chemicals for the plot.
Bosbach said an attack could have occurred "in a few days" and pointed out the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks next week, as well as deliberations by the German parliament in the next few weeks over whether to extend its troop mandates in Afghanistan.
"We are in a highly sensitive period," he said.
Meanwhile, the European Union's top justice official said Wednesday the threat of a terror attack remained high in the 27-nation bloc.
EU Justice and Home Affairs Commissioner Franco Frattini said the EU executive would push ahead with plans to set up an EU-wide airline passenger data recording system modeled on a system developed by the United States, despite privacy concerns voiced by some EU parliamentarians.
"It's a useful tool to protect our citizens, who deserve the same protection as U.S. citizens," Frattini told the European Parliament.
Other measures in the works include a plan to set up an EU-wide explosive database to provide an early warning system on lost or stolen explosives that could end up in the hands of terror groups, and new provisions to deal with the misuse of the Internet by terrorists, Frattini said.
"The threat of new terror attacks continues to be high," Frattini said, citing Spain, Italy, Belgium, Britain and Germany as countries where the risk has been the highest.
Germany, which did not send troops to Iraq, has been spared terrorist attacks like the train and subway bombings in Madrid and London - although its involvement in the attempt to stabilize Afghanistan has led to fears it might be targeted.
In July 2006 two gas bombs were placed on commuter trains but did not explode. Officials said that attack was motivated by anger over cartoons portraying the Prophet Muhammad in a Danish newspaper. Several suspects are on trial in Lebanon, and a Lebanese man has been charged in Germany.