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Germany: Police Deal Blow to Suspected Chechen Islamists

Update 7:35 a.m. CET. In several federal states within Germany, including Berlin, police raided apartments of Chechens. The five individuals are suspected of planning a large-scale terrorist attack.

Police stormed homes in several parts of Germany on Tuesday. The operation targeted Chechens who may have been planning a terrorist attack. Five suspects aged 23 to 28 were arrested temporarily. The men are part of the Salafist movement.

Stabbing Weapons Confiscated

In Berlin, officers belonging to the State Office of Criminal Investigations, including an elite police unit, entered apartments in the four districts Hellersdorf, Hohenschönhausen, Spandau and Köpenick on Tuesday. Additional raids were performed in Ludwigsfelde (Brandenburg province), Hagen (North-Rhine Westphalia) and Arnstadt (Thuringia).

Prosecutors believe the Islamists spied out at least two objects, a Berlin mall and a synagogue in the German capital. Media reports according to which it was the New Synagogue Berlin in ‘Oranienburger Strasse’ were not confirmed or denied. Police started investigating in the case after photos of those objects were found on a smart phone owned by one of the men.

A total of 180 police officers were part of the raids. They confiscated stabbing and cutting weapons, mobile phones, computers, storage devices and cash. According to German-language media reports, the police operation was conducted early in the investigation. The authorities might have risked not being able to collect enough evidence for charging the suspects.

No Immediate Threat

But this decision was taken consciously. Prosecutors wanted to establish clarity regarding the intentions of the suspects. A spokesman said there had not been an immediate or specific threat, according to the information available so far. At this stage, no arrest warrants could be issued. The investigation is ongoing and the evidence is being checked.

Germany’s Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution believes there are 1120 Salafist Islamists in Berlin right now. Many of them are from Chechnya, Dagestan and Ingushetia. Three years ago, a mosque many of them visited in Berlin’s Moabit district was forbidden and closed.

Usually, German police do not search the content of smart phones when they check passers-by. In the case of the Chechen suspects, an active defense search was conducted. The photos found rang alarm bells. Tuesday’s police raids show that Islamist terrorism is still considered a constant threat in Germany as well.

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