Homeland Security

Suspects in Christmas Terror Plot Released; On the Loose in Germany

Police officers patrol at the Christmas market in Dortmund, Germany, on Dec. 20, 2016. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)

On Wednesday, German police released six Syrian nationals suspected of having fought with the Islamic State (ISIS) in Syria. German officials admitted finding no concrete evidence against the men, but the search uncovered plans for an attack on a Christmas market and investigations will continue.

The Syrians were released without charge on Wednesday after initial investigations found no “sufficient evidence of a terror plot,” the Frankfurt prosecutor’s office said.

Authorities added that there was “no concrete evidence” the suspects belonged to ISIS, either.

Even so, staff at the prosecutor’s office told CNN there are indications that the men had contacts with ISIS. Investigations are ongoing.

A German intelligence officer said the arrest of the Syrians uncovered a possible terror plot on the Essen Christmas market, however.

The suspected ISIS members were arrested in four anti-terror raids Tuesday. Around 500 German police officers carried out the raids in the cities of Kassel, Hanover, Essen, and Leipzig.

Four of the suspects entered Germany as asylum-seekers in 2014 and the other two arrived in 2015, the German newspaper Deutsche-Welle reported. Refugees tipped off investigators about the men, who were reportedly active ISIS fighters in Syria.

The German newspaper Welt cited findings from the attorney general of Frankfurt that the Syrian suspects are ISIS supporters. They were arrested on suspicion of membership in a terrorist organization and preparation of a terrorist attack.

Welt also reported that investigators have come across terrorist suspects who had immigrated to Germany under false pretenses, claiming to be civil war refugees.

According to The Daily Mail, prosecutors say the suspected terrorists were planning an attack using “weapons and explosives.” The target may have been a Christmas market in Essen, and the attack planned for December 19. These details have not yet been confirmed by authorities, however.

On the same date last year, Tunisian ISIS terrorist Anis Amri hijacked a truck and murdered 12 at the Breitscheidplatz Christmas market in Berlin, Germany’s capital.

In March, police shut down a shopping mall in Essen after terror threats. At the end of October, police also detained a Syrian man who was also suspected of preparing an explosives attack in Germany.