An Islamic militant group designated as a terror organization by the U.S. claimed responsibility for foiled bombings that targeted the American air base at Ramstein, as well as U.S. and Uzbek consulates in Germany, the government said Tuesday.
The Interior Ministry, which is responsible for police and internal security, said the Islamic Jihad Union made the announcement on the Internet and that government computer experts viewed it as genuine. Three men were arrested Sept. 4 on suspicion of planning massive bombings against U.S. and other facilities in Germany.
“In an Internet appearance, the Islamic Jihad Union has taken responsibility for the foiled attacks in Germany and addresses the arrests of Sept. 4, 2007,” the ministry statement said. “The attacks planned according to this for the end of 2007 were directed against the U.S. air base at Ramstein as well as U.S. and Uzbek consular facilities in Germany.”
The attacks were aimed at pressing Germany to close its air base in Termez, Uzbekistan, the statement also said. The base near the Uzbek-Afghan border provides logistical support for the roughly 3,000 German troops serving as part of the international security force in Afghanistan.
U.S.: A terror group
The Islamic Jihad Union is described by police and prosecutors as an offshoot of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, a militant group that had origins in that Central Asian country. The IJU has been designated a terrorist organization by the State Department; German prosecutors have said it is characterized by a “profound hatred of U.S. citizens.”
According to the State Department, the group was responsible for coordinated bombings directed at the U.S. and Israeli embassies in July 2004 in the Uzbek capital, Tashkent. Members have been schooled in explosives by al-Qaida instructors and the group has ties to Osama bin Laden and fugitive Taliban leader Mullah Omar.
U.S. intelligence officials acknowledged in testimony before the Senate Tuesday that they had assisted German officials in detecting the threat. Director of Intelligence Michael McConnell said a U.S. program to intercept suspects’ communications made “significant contributions” to the German investigation.
Details of arrest, case
Last week, German anti-terrorist forces swept down on a rented cottage in Oberschledorn in central Germany and arrested Fritz Martin Gelowicz, 28, described as the leader of an Islamic Jihad Union terror cell, and Daniel Martin Schneider, 22, both of them German converts to Islam. The third suspect has been identified as Adem Yilmaz, 29, born in Turkey but also living in Germany.
All three had trained in terrorist camps in Pakistan, prosecutors said, and the case has raised concerns in Germany about homegrown extremists linking up with foreign terror groups. Gelowicz came from Ulm, a town on the Danube River in southern German that, along with neighboring Neu-Ulm, has been targeted by police as a center of radical activity.
Prosecutors said the three had obtained more than 1,600 pounds of 35 percent hydrogen peroxide solution, enough to make explosives with the equivalent power of 1,200 pounds of TNT, as well as military-style detonators. Bombs made from hydrogen peroxide killed 52 commuters in terrorist attacks in London in 2005.
The Interior Ministry statement said the arrests had prevented the danger in the current case but that “the statement of responsibility underscores ... the continuing danger from Islamic terrorism.”