“There is an urgent suspicion that a crime has been committed and there is a risk of absconding,” said Martin Steltner, spokesman for the Berlin Prosecutor’s Office, after the men were charged on Friday evening.
The authorities had one day to either charge the men or release them. The prosecutors accuse them of planning a “violent act of subversion.”
On Thursday, police in Berlin arrested the 24-year-old German of Lebanese origin and the 28-year-old Palestinian on suspicion that the chemicals they had been recently acquiring were part of a planned terrorist attack. The men had collected large quantities of coolant and acid used in agriculture. Police said the suspects intended to mix the substances to make a bomb.
An Islamic culture club and two apartments were also searched as part of the operation, involving 230 officers. The police found chemicals, as well as a computer, files and USB sticks, which are currently being examined.
According to information obtained by news magazine Der Spiegel, a foreign intelligence agency tipped off the German authorities at the end of June about a possible attack. The investigation was also helped after companies in Berlin and Baden-Württemberg informed the authorities about suspicious orders for large amounts of chemicals.
The authorities said that any possible attack had not been planned to coincide with the 10th anniversary of the terror attacks of September 11, 2001 as the plans were at too early a stage.
News agency DPA reports that the two detained men are thought to be adherents of Salafism, a particularly strict interpretation of Islam. Germany’s domestic intelligence agency, the Verfassungschutz or Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, estimates that there are around 350 Salafists in Berlin, of whom around 100 are thought to be prepared to use violence.
According to information obtained by the newsweekly Der Spiegel, the two men are thought to have links with terrorist groups in Afghanistan.
The 24-year-old Lebanese German had been prevented from flying from Berlin’s Tegel Airport to Iran two years ago and had his passport confiscated, Der Spiegel reports. Intelligence officers had assumed that he wanted to join militants in Afghanistan.
Investigators are looking into whether the other suspect, who is from the Gaza Strip, had undergone training in a terrorist camp in Afghanistan.