Germany's 9/11 Averted
Earlier today, three individuals were arrested in Germany on terrorism related charges. Information came out slowly, but we now know significantly more about the suspects, what they were planning to do and what organization they work for. One of the most frightening aspects about this case is that two of the three suspects are native Germans. The other suspect is not German, but neither is he from the Middle East. In fact, he is from Turkey.
Fritz G., Daniel S. and Adem Y. were reportedly planning to blow up Frankfurt's international airport, which is Germany's biggest airport. In addition, the three terrorists planned to hit several American targets in Germany, including the Ramstein Air Base. It should be noted that these attacks were not planned on a small-scale. According to German authorities, the three men wanted to use chemical bombs for the attacks.
German police and American intelligence agencies were closely watching the three suspects since March of this year. It seems that the Islamic Jihad Union created a cell in Germany back in December 2006, whose goal was to commit terrorist attacks and recruit new members for the Al-Qaeda linked terrorist organization. In March, the three suspects truly started preparing for the terrorist attack. They worked on the bombs meant for the attacks in a holiday apartment in Medebach-Oberschledorn, which is in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia.
When the German police understood - through wiretapping and email surveilance - that the three had no intention to call off the plans and had started building chemical bombs, they acted. Police units forced their way into the vacation home where the three were located and arrested them. One was able to flee, but not for long: A police officer used his gun to detain him. When the police looked at the material found at the sight, they saw that Fritz, Daniel and Adem had collected 730 kilograms of explosive materials. The same type of chemical bombs were used in the London bombings, but they were a lot smaller: only some 3 to 5 kilograms.
While the small bombs used in the Madrid and London attacks caused tremendous damage and many deaths, the plans of those arrested in Germany would have resulted in something more like 9/11. According to German sources, the bomb would have consisted of some 550 kilograms of TNT. For American readers, that's about 1200 pounds. The chemicals they had in their possession are based on hydrogen peroxide. Although it is, according to experts, fairly difficult to use this substance for a bomb, it is quite effective once successful.
Authorities had been suspicious of the individuals for a long while. Fritz G., for instance, is a member of an extremist group in Ulm: German authorities already knew about this group before 9/11. Of the three, Fritz G. drew the attention of the authorities the most because he was seen driving around the US military base in Hanau a bit too often. This inspired German authorities to take a closer look at his behavior which ultimately led to today's arrests.
The Islamic Jihad Union is a Pakistan-based terrorist organization. It operates mostly in Afghanistan. Last year, it committed a major attack in the province of Oruzgan where - among others - Dutch forces serve. Authorities suspect that the three went to Pakistan years ago for training in one of the IJU's training camps. After they left, the three kept in touch with the leader of the IJU by telephone, which was tapped by the German police.
Michael van der Gali√´n is a Groningen, Netherlands-based American Studies student, and blogs at The Van Der Gali√´n Gazette.