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Tunisian man held in Cologne ‘sought to build biological weapon’

A Tunisian man arrested in western Germany is suspected of trying to build a biological weapon using the deadly poison ricin, prosecutors said on Thursday, stressing however there was no indication of any "concrete attack plans".

Tunisian man held in Cologne 'sought to build biological weapon'
Special chemical units in front of the suspect's Cologne flat on Tuesday. Photo: DPA

The 29-year-old, identified as Sief Allah H., was detained after police stormed his flat in Cologne late Tuesday, where they found unknown “toxic substances” that turned out to be ricin.

“He is strongly suspected of intentionally manufacturing biological weapons,” federal prosecutors said in a statement.

The suspect has been charged with violating German law on the possession of weapons of war, and “preparing a serious act of violence against the state”.

But prosecutors cautioned that it remained unclear whether he was planning to use ricin to carry out an Islamist attack in Germany.

“There are no indications that the accused belongs to a terrorist organization, nor of any concrete attack plans at a certain time or place,” they said.

According to German media, the police raid came after German intelligence services were tipped off by foreign authorities who had grown suspicious of the suspect's online purchases.

Prosecutors said Sief Allah H. started buying the necessary equipment and ingredients to make ricin in mid-May — including an online purchase of “a thousand castor seeds and an electric coffee grinder”.

He succeeded in manufacturing the toxin earlier this month. The dangerous substance has been secured by the authorities, they added.

Ricin — a poison that is produced by processing castor beans — has no known antidote and is one of the world's most lethal toxins.

It is 6,000 times more powerful than cyanide.

German news weekly Der Spiegel reported that Sief Allah H. was thought to have been following instructions disseminated by the Islamic State group on how to build a bomb containing ricin.

The case comes less than a month after French authorities said they had foiled a terror attack possibly involving the use of ricin. Two brothers of Egyptian origin were arrested.

Germany remains on high alert for jihadist attacks after several assaults claimed by the Islamic State group in the country.

In the worst such attack, Tunisian asylum seeker Anis Amri rammed a truck into crowds at a Berlin Christmas market in December 2016, killing 12.

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CRIME

German jailed for life in double police murder

A German man was given a life sentence on Wednesday for shooting dead two police officers to escape being caught for illegal game hunting during a routine traffic check.

German jailed for life in double police murder

The regional court in Kaiserslautern found 39-year-old Andreas Schmitt guilty of the killings in January this year, which sent shockwaves across Germany.

His co-defendant, referred to by the court as Florian V., was found guilty of abetting illegal poaching.

The 33-year-old was in the car with Schmitt when the officers discovered dead game in the boot, investigators said.

“We are all to this day horrified that a supposed routine control could turn into a fatal incident,” Interior Minister Nancy Faeser said in a statement after the verdict.

READ ALSO: German prosecutors say poaching led to double police murder

The victims were a 24-year-old woman police officer still in training and her colleague, a 29-year-old man.

The young woman was killed by a single shot to the head, while the man was shot four times, investigators said.

The officers were able to report that they were checking a suspicious vehicle and that shots were being fired before radio contact broke off.

When backup arrived, the woman was already dead and the man fatally injured. The perpetrators had fled the scene.

The crime in the Kusel district of Rhineland-Palatinate state triggered a major manhunt, with police deploying helicopters and sniffer dogs, sealing off roads and warning local residents not to pick up hitchhikers.

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