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Extremism: Hagen synagogue: suspect is in custody

Extremism : Hagen synagogue: suspect is in custody

A teenager is said to have communicated with an IS terrorist about building bombs. But the young Syrian denies that he planned an attack on a synagogue in Hagen in the state of North Rhine Westphalia. He is being held in police custody.

A young braggart or a dangerous Islamist? The 16-year-old arrested for alleged plans to attack a Hagen synagogue is to remain in police custody. The decision was handed down by a judge at the Hagen District Court, reported the Düsseldorf Attorney General's Office.

He is being held on strong suspicion of planning a serious act of violence endangering the state. The authorities had applied for his arrest warrant.

The judge had come to the Hagen police headquarters on Friday afternoon, where the youth was brought before him accompanied by his lawyer. He had been arrested on Thursday on suspicion of planning a terrorist attack.

The 16-year-old's defense attorney in Hagen, Ihsan Tanyolu, had expected his client to be released in the morning. "No allegation of the crime has been substantiated that would justify that," he told the German Press Agency on the question of his client being detained by the authorities. After the judge's decision, Tanyolu said that he would request a custody review and an inspection of case files.

In fact, the investigators had not yet found any bomb components, let alone an explosive device - neither on the 16-year-old nor in the vicinity of the synagogue. So his plans were probably not very far advanced. Moreover, the family had not previously come to the attention of the state security forces, so there were no indications of Islamist activities.

The judge's decision, however, indicates that the investigators have more to go on than a vague tip from a foreign intelligence service. In fact, according to security circles, it involves an entire chat history of the 16-year-old with a suspected IS terrorist.

The chat is supposed to prove that the teenager did not just have a one-time casual contact with the bomb-making expert via Telegram messenger service, but communicated with him over a longer period of time.

According to security circles, the youth even admitted to having had contact with the man, but vehemently denied intentions to attack the synagogue during his hour-long interrogation. In the chat (history), however, he had brought up the synagogue as a target, the prosecutor general's office reported on Friday evening.

With searches and arrests, the police on Thursday followed up on the "very serious and concrete indication" that an attack on the Hagen synagogue had been imminent on the holiest Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur. The tip-off suggested an "Islamist-motivated threat situation", NRW Interior Minister Herbert Reul (CDU) had said.

Electronic media such as cell phones and hard drives were seized and evaluated. The father and two brothers of the 16-year-old, whom the police had initially also taken into custody, had already been released on Thursday evening because there was no suspicion against them. According to security circles, the father had come to Germany in 2014 and was recognized as a refugee in 2016.

The tip-off about his son is said to have come from a foreign intelligence service to the German Federal Intelligence Service (BND). Another attack on the holiest Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur in Germany, two years after the one in Halle and a week before the federal election? Politicians expressed their horror on Thursday.

NRW Justice Minister Peter Biesenbach (CDU) praised police and the courts for reacting swiftly and correctly. He thanked the team of investigators.

Since the first tips emerged, they have meticulously worked day and night shifts with authorities to find the evidence that now establishes the urgent suspicion of the crime. For the Federal Public Prosecutor's Office, however, the case seems to be a bit too minor. At least as of now, it has not yet taken over the investigation.

(Orig. text: Frank Christiansen, Bettina Grönewald, Anne-Beatrice Clasmann, dpa; Translation: ck)