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Germany arrests Lebanese man in bomb plot

German police have taken into custody a suspect linked to last month’s failed plot to explode bombs on German trains, the federal prosecutor’s office said on Saturday.
/ Source: The Associated Press

German authorities on Saturday arrested a Lebanese student suspected of helping plant two bombs that failed to explode on trains last month, officials said.

The 21-year-old man was detained a day after investigators released surveillance camera footage taken at the Cologne station on July 31, the day of the attempted bombing, showing two men with heavy luggage who were believed to have planted the devices.

The bombs, made with gas canisters, were found inside suitcases left on board trains in Dortmund and Koblenz, both of which had stopped in Cologne. They apparently were supposed to explode simultaneously, 10 minutes before the trains arrived at those stations.

The suspect was arrested at the main train station in the Baltic Sea port city of Kiel, where he lived and studied. Chief prosecutor Monika Harms said he apparently had planned to flee the country.

Prosecutors said the suspect was identified with the help of the surveillance footage and DNA traces from one of the suitcases in which the bombs were found. A student residence in Kiel was searched following Saturday’s arrest, prosecutors said.

Joerg Ziercke, the head of Germany’s Federal Crime Office, said he was confident that “we caught the right suspected bomb planter.”

Searching for second suspect
Officials said they were still seeking the second suspect from the video recording and had not identified him.

Open questions include “what contacts this person has in Germany, whether he has contacts abroad, are there people behind this ... whether there are networks, whether Islamist terrorism plays a role,” Ziercke told reporters in Kiel.

A torn scrap of paper with Arabic script listing groceries and phone numbers in Lebanon was found in clothing surrounding one gas canister. Small bags of starch, also from Lebanon and available in Germany, also were found.

Investigators have said it was possible the would-be attackers might have wanted to send a message related to fighting in the Middle East as the bombs were found while the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah was ongoing. But they did not comment Saturday on possible motives.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s office said in a statement that the German leader was “relieved” at the arrest and described it as “a great success in the fight against terrorism.”

The prosecutor said in the southwestern city of Karlsruhe that the suspect had come to Germany in September 2004. She identified him only by his first names, Youssef Mohamad.

He had been registered as living in Kiel since February 2005 and studied mechatronics — a combination of mechanics, information technology and electronics.