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TERRORISM

Report: Cologne man arrested over alleged deadly poison attack plot ‘had been planning his escape’

A Tunisian man who was arrested in Germany after allegedly plotting a biological bomb attack with a deadly poison had been planning his escape.

Report: Cologne man arrested over alleged deadly poison attack plot 'had been planning his escape'
Officials wearing respiratory masks and protective suits in front of a Cologne residential complex where Sief Allah H. was arrested on June 12th. Photo: DPA.

The 29-year-old Sief Allah H., who had lived in the Chorweiler neighbourhood of Cologne, was arrested on June 12th after being accused of procuring material online, including seeds needed for the creation of the toxin chemical ricin.

Now a report by the Interior Minister Herbert Reul (CDU) has described events leading to the arrest of the suspected would-be terrorist.

According to the Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger, Allah H. had already planned his escape after a possible attack.

Allah H. had previously attempted to make two trips to Islamic State (IS), the terrorist group that has fought in the Syrian war and carried out major attacks in Europe, according to the report. He had also been reported to German police for domestic violence.

After the arrest, police said Allah H. had already begun to produce ricin, one of the most dangerous toxins found in nature, from castor seeds when he was arrested. The seeds and components required to build an explosive device were found in his apartment.

Allah H., a father of four with a wife, known as Jasmine D., who had converted to Islam, came to Germany in 2016.

The couple had met two years earlier via Facebook and got married in his home country. In November 2016, he travelled to Germany for family reunification.

On January 8th, Jasmine D. reported to police that her husband had beaten her several times. As a result, the police gave Allah H. a 10-day ban and investigated him for domestic violence. On January 25, the couple reunited at the station.

It soon turned out that Allah H. had long been under surveillance by authorities because he had tried on two occasions, months before, to travel to the IS group via Turkey and Egypt.

Following the evidence further

In mid-March 2018, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV) informed Cologne authorities that they would continue to observe the suspect. However, the evidence of a terrorist threat at that stage seemed too vague.

The report also states that that the immigration office for Cologne informed local police on October 12th, 2017 that Allah H had claimed his passport was missing.

It wasn’t until the beginning of June last year that the Joint Counter-Terrorism Centre (GTAZ) in Berlin-Treptow sounded the alarm. It became clear through indications from foreign partners that the suspected extremist may have been planning an attempted attack in Germany.

Further research revealed that the suspect had been buying castor seeds and other parts for a poison bomb for weeks over the online retailer Amazon. In addition, he had ordered a sleeping bag along with a mobile battery.

It has also emerged from intercepted phone calls that Allah H. had asked his wife for 1000 euros. According to investigators, he was planning his escape after a successful attack.

Allah H. has not commented on the allegations, according to the report.  Meanwhile, his wife has claimed to know nothing.

Political response

The opposition in the Düsseldorf state parliament has been responding to the report.

Verena Schäffer, the Greens' spokeswoman, called for action. She said the case was an example of  “successful cooperation between national and international security authorities”.

“This is a good sign despite the drama that could have been caused by an attack with ricin,” she said.

“However, Minister Reul now has to be specific in his call for an early-warning system for the sale of hazardous substances,” she added.

According to the Federal Criminal Police Office, “the case is the first case in which a jihadist-motivated offender has produced biological weapons in Germany”.

There are no findings so far on any possible accomplices. Also, it is not clear where and how Allah H. was planning an attack.

The report says the suspect had already purchased several parts over the internet for the construction of a splinter bomb to be filled with the highly dangerous poison ricin.

In the raid on June 12th, steel balls, wires connected with light bulbs and “possibly a suitable explosive powder and nail polish remover” were found.  

The extremist could have killed hundreds of people with the explosive device, according to Hans-Georg Maaßen, President of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution,

Germany remains on high alert after several deadly attacks claimed by the IS group, including a 2016 truck rampage through a Berlin Christmas market by Tunisian asylum seeker Anis Amri that claimed 12 lives.

SEE ALSO: Tunisian man held in Cologne 'sought to build biological weapon'

TERRORISM

Anti-Semitism ‘massive problem’ in Germany, says Jewish leader on terror attack anniversary

On the second anniversary of a far-right terror attack at a German synagogue, the German Jewish Council has warned that the government needs to make more efforts to stop the spread of anti-Semitism online.

Anti-Semitism 'massive problem' in Germany, says Jewish leader on terror attack anniversary
A star of David on the roof of the Halle synagogue. Photo: dpa-Zentralbild | Hendrik Schmidt

Two years after a terrorist attack in the east German town of Halle that left two people dead, Josef Schuster, head of the Central Council of Jews, said that more needed to be done in the fight against anti-Semitism and right-wing extremism.

“The spread and incitement of hate, for example in the form of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories via social media, is a massive problem,” Schuster told DPA.

On October 9th 2019, a heavily armed right-wing extremist called Stephan Balliet tried to enter the Halle city synagogue on the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur.

When he failed to do so, he shot a 40-year-old passerby. He later killed a 20-year-old man at a kebab shop. While trying to escape, the 28-year-old injured several people before he was caught by the police.

The city of Halle is commemorating the event on Saturday, with wreaths to be laid at the scene of the crime. Reiner Haseloff, state leader of Saxony-Anhalt, is expected to attend.

Balliet was sentenced to life in prison in 2020 by the Naumburg Higher Regional Court. His sentence will be followed by preventive detention.

Funs for synagogue security

While praising the German government for introducing a law that makes social media companies responsible for hateful content posted on their sites, Schuster said that the legislation needed to be extended to messenger services such as Telegram.

“We must do everything we can to ensure that the internet is not a lawless space,” he said.

According to Schuster, the German government reacted quickly after the Halle attack by providing money to improve security at Jewish institutions.

This was an important step, he said. “However, there is still much to be done at the political and social level to combat growing anti-Semitism.”

SEE ALSO: Four held over foiled ‘Islamist’ attack on German synagogue

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