COLOGNE · The police in Cologne and Düren conducted a raid on suspected Islamic extremists on Thursday. One of the suspects has close contacts to the Berlin Salafist scene. NRW Interior Minister Reul stressed that there had been no indications of a concrete attack plan.
The Cologne police prevented a possible terrorist attack. This information was made public yesterday by Cologne Police Chief Uwe Jacob, and Stephan Becker, head of the Criminal Police Division in Cologne. "We had recent covert knowledge that an attack could be imminent," said Becker. During the raids, special forces searched seven properties in Cologne and Düren as well as a construction site and took a total of six men into custody. At a construction site in the Cologne inner city, explosives were suspected initially. In the evening, police gave an all-clear. Two men were taken into custody at the construction site and later released. Interior Minister Herbert Reul stressed that there had been no indications of concrete timing for an attack.
It was a sentence that put the authorities on alert: A 30-year-old man said in an intercepted conversation that he was “ready for paradise", that he was striving for the "ascent to the highest level of the Muslim faith". For the investigators it was a clear sign that the suspect could commit an attack. The Cologne police obtained knowledge on Tuesday about the possibility of a deadly scheme and this triggered a large-scale operation.
On Thursday, investigators took six suspects into custody in Düren and Cologne - among them a preacher (30) from the Fussilet Mosque in Berlin-Moabit. Anis Amri, who drove a truck into a Berlin Christmas Market, was in this building before the attack at Breitscheidplatz in Berlin. The investigators did not disclose the extent to which preacher Wael C. and Amri had contact. The preacher is a German-Lebanese convert who has been known as a “Gefährder” (someone believed to pose a terrorist threat) for years. In this specific case, he is regarded as the main suspect and is said to have uttered the alarming sentence about “paradise”.
He was deputy imam in a Berlin mosque for a long time. Then he recently moved to be with a 21-year-old friend in Düren - possibly to prepare an attack. According to police, the suspect founded a construction company and worked with several men in a building complex on Hohe Pforte street in Cologne inner city. It was feared that the suspects had hidden explosives there but nothing was found. A worker at the construction site said that six suspicious men had been working on a roof construction there on Wednesday evening. Possibly something had been hidden.
Cologne's head of Criminal Police, Stephan Becker, made it clear on Thursday that police had been "forced to act". There was no alternative. Besides the preacher, the 21-year-old also was becoming "increasingly radicalized". "We have findings that the 21-year-old recently took the oath of allegiance to the Islamic State (IS) and is highly violent," Becker emphasized. He is on a list of persons considered to be dangerous by North Rhine-Westphalia authorities. They consider the 21-year-old to be unstable and easily influenced. In the intercepted conversation between the two, bombs are said to have been discussed. An attack with a car is also said to have been a topic. Two other suspects are two German converts aged 20 and 21.
In order to gather further evidence, the 30-year-old's former apartment in Berlin was also searched. Investigators found baseball bats and knives in the living space in Düren. In addition, police officers in Düren seized twenty mobile phones, hard drives, laptops and a router. They also found a bottle of liquid which was to be examined on Thursday. A police spokesman said that the men had shown "light resistance" during the raid by special forces. There were no serious injuries.
Orig. text: Daniel Taab