updated 8/26/2006 10:06:44 PM ET 2006-08-27T02:06:44

A third suspect detained in a failed attempt to blow up two German trains is a Syrian national who researched plans for the bombings on the Internet, prosecutors said Saturday.

The Syrian, whose name was given only as Fadi A.S., 23, was detained in southern Germany on Friday — allegedly with a computer carrying the plans for the bombs which he and his alleged accomplices downloaded from the Internet.

Chief Federal Prosecutor Monika Harms said she was “very cautious” about indications from Lebanon that the plot could be linked to al-Qaida.

“It is possible that these acts were carried out on the basis of convictions shared by al-Qaida,” Harms said on ZDF television. “But it could be other connections.”

She said the alleged conspirators had formed an elusive cell of a kind which has flourished in recent years.

“They are small groups who decide spontaneously to act, who don’t have a fixed structure,” she said. “That is new, but it doesn’t mean they are less dangerous and it makes them all the more difficult to observe and detect in time.”

Bombs failed to detonate
German and Lebanese authorities are each holding one of two young Lebanese men accused of carrying the suitcase bombs onto trains in Cologne station on July 31.

The detonators went off, but failed to ignite gas canisters hidden inside the wheeled cases. While the devices were crude, officials say they could have caused many casualties and set the trains on fire.

Harms’ office said Saturday that the Syrian, together with the two Lebanese, “used his computer to research bomb-making instructions in the Internet.” The bombs found in the cases “were built according to these instructions,” it said in a statement.

Fadi A.S. also helped the two other suspects, Youssef Mohamad el Hajdib and Jihad Hamad, flee Germany to Lebanon via Turkey and Syria hours after the failed attack, the prosecutors said.

Harms said other people may also have been involved in the failed attack and that authorities were following up “numerous” leads. She said she also hoped for more leads from investigations in Lebanon.

Calls for more surveillance
Politicians have responded to the attempted bombing with calls for tighter counterterrorism measures, including more monitoring of extremist Web sites and more video surveillance at stations and airports.

On Friday, police evacuated 450 passengers from a train in Bavaria after a cleaner found a fake bomb in a washroom.

The prosecutors said Fadi A.S. had previously lived in the northern city of Kiel, where el Hajdib was arrested a week ago after returning to Germany from Lebanon.

Hamad, who had lived in Cologne, was detained on Thursday in Lebanon. Authorities there said on Friday that they had also detained another man as part of their inquiries. Germany has sent investigators there and is seeking Hamad’s extradition.

All three main suspects are under investigation for multiple counts of attempted murder, trying to cause an explosion and membership in a terrorist organization.

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