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August 18, 2006

Train Jihate

Filed under: Germany, Uncategorized — limewoody @ 8:25 pm

Aug. 18 (Bloomberg) — Two suitcases containing bottles of gasoline, propane gas and a detonating device that were found abandoned in German regional trains last month were bombs primed to go off and kill a “high number” of people, police said.

“We’re accusing as yet unknown suspects of having tried to ignite unconventional flammable and explosive devices on July 31, 2006, in the cities of Dortmund and Koblenz with the aim of killing a high number of people,” Federal Prosecutor Rainer Griesbaum said at a press conference in Wiesbaden, Germany, today. The perpetrators are suspected of being members of a “domestic terrorist organization,” Griesbaum said.

A suitcase found abandoned on a regional train from Aachen to Hamm in western Germany was turned in by the train’s conductor in Dortmund. It contained a propane gas bottle, three bottles filled with gasoline and a detonating device, the Federal Prosecutor’s Office said Aug. 1. On the same day another piece of luggage was found on another regional train from Moenchengladbach to Koblenz about 75 miles to the South. It too contained a propane gas bottle.

“We have to take this event very seriously,” Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said in a faxed statement today. “We have to expect that the danger of a repeat attempt still exists.”

`Memories of Madrid’

“Memories immediately arise of the Madrid and London attacks,” the president of the Federal Criminal Police Joerg Ziercke, Germany’s most senior police official, said at the same press conference in Wiesbaden, also warning that there is a danger of more attempted attacks.

The German attempt differs from the attacks in London and Madrid because the bombs weren’t supposed to go off during rush hour and in the train stations, and instead were primed to ignite 10 minutes before the train’s arrival in Dortmund and Koblenz, Zierke said. Gas was used instead of explosives and no one has claimed responsibility for the planned attacks, he said.

The planned bombing is the second attempted terrorist act in Germany in recent years. German police arrested three Iraqi men suspected of planning an assassination attempt on Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi during his visit to Berlin in 2004. They belong to the Ansar al-Islam terrorist group, the Federal Prosecutor has said. The men are currently standing trail in Stuttgart.

Lebanon Connection

The July 31 attempt “is likely to have a terrorist background,” Zierke said. Investigators found pieces of paper with Arabic letters and telephone numbers from Lebanon in clothes which were in the suitcases to pad the gas bottles, he said. They also found starch bags from Lebanon which were sold in a store in or around Essen, a city in North-Rhine Westphalia.

Investigators have video material of the perpetrators, though they have not yet been identified, Zierke said. He asked the German public to help identify the people, and offered a reward of 50,000 euros ($63,950).

Police are looking for two males, who transported the two suitcases at Cologne train station. Video material of them was shown at the press conference today.

The Federal Prosecutor has since Aug. 1 been investigating the incidents on the basis of membership of a terrorist organization, though has not yet named any suspect, Griesbaum said.

Terror Threat

The terror threat in Germany isn’t considered to be as high as in the U.K. or U.S. because the country didn’t take part in the U.S.-led war in Iraq, the government has said. Still, it did train Iraqi police officers and so may also be a terror target.

The planned bombing “corresponds to our evaluation that attacks could also hit our country,” Schaeuble said.

Germany is clamping down on Islamic extremists after discovering that three pilots involved in the Sept. 11 terror attacks — Mohamed Atta, Marwan Al-Shehhi and Ziad Samir Jarrah – – had lived in the northern port city of Hamburg.

Other members of the Hamburg terror group included Ramzi Binalshibh and Said Bahaji. While Binalshibh has been held by the U.S. at an undisclosed location since his arrest in Pakistan in September 2002, Bahaji, a suspected organizer of the terrorist attacks, is still at large. Bahaji disappeared from Germany just prior to Sept. 11, 2001, and is suspected to be in Pakistan.

To contact the reporter on this story: Claudia Rach in Berlin at crach1@bloomberg.net .

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