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Germany: Three Iraqis arrested for planning terror attack

Chase Winter
January 30, 2019

Two of the three suspects reportedly tried to build a homemade bomb and considered carrying out an armed or vehicle attack. Prosecutors accused the suspects of planning an "Islamist motivated attack."

The house where the suspects were arrested
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/K. Schröder

Three Iraqi refugees were arrested on Wednesday in northern Germany for preparing a terror attack.

Two 23-year-olds and a 36-year-old were arrested in an early morning raid in the state of Schleswig-Holstein after a months-long investigation, German police said.

"According to the findings to date, the suspects had not yet selected a specific target for their attack," the federal prosecutor's office said in a statement.

Two of the suspects are accused of preparing a bomb using gunpowder from fireworks and another of aiding and abetting the terror plans.

Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said that the suspects had already carried out explosive tests. 

Investigators allege the two 23-year-olds, Shahin F. and Hersh F., downloaded bomb-making instructions from the internet and tried to purchase a detonation device from the United Kingdom. British authorities were able to halt the shipment of the detonation device to Germany.

Read moreGermany's terrorism watch list: What you need to know

The two accused also considered buying a 9mm handgun with the help of 36-year-old Rauf S., who negotiated with a separately prosecuted man to procure the weapon. However, Shahin F. and Hersh F. found the handgun too expensive and started considering a vehicle attack instead, prosecutors said. 

Shahin F. started taking lessons for driving a truck at the beginning of January. 

Shahin F. and Hersh F. had decided at the end of 2018 that they would "carry out an Islamist motivated attack in Germany," prosecutors said. 

"Further investigations must determine whether the accused are tied to any terrorist organization," they said.

Police also carried out raids of homes in the states of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern und Baden-Württemberg, but made no arrests.


GSG 9: Germany's elite anti-terror squad

Germany is planning to expand its elite GSG9 police unit in view of the continuing terrorist threat. The group has a distinguished history going back more than four decades.

Image: picture alliance/dpa/Hannibal

Ready to cope with extreme situations

The GSG9, which stands for Grenzschutzgruppe 9 (Border Protection Group 9), was set up in 1972 after regular German police failed to rescue Israeli hostages kidnapped by Palestinian terrorists at the Munich Olympics. Its formation was controversial, with some politicians in Germany feeling the group was reminiscent of the notorious Nazi SS.

Image: picture alliance/dpa/Hannibal

Establishing a top reputation

The GSG9's very first mission, called "Operation Fire Magic," established its high reputation. After Palestinian terrorists hijacked a Lufthansa plane in 1977, the GSG 9 managed to rescue passengers in a seven-minute operation in Mogadishu. A GSG 9 member and a flight attendant were injured, while three of four hijackers were killed. Sadly, the pilot was killed before the operation took place.

Image: picture-alliance/dpa/dpaweb

Reward for a mission accomplished

Ulrich Wegener, who was a founding member of GSG 9, received an Order of Merit from the German government after the successful mission. Wegener, who became known as the "Hero of Mogadishu," died on December 28, 2017, at the age of 88. He was always uncomfortable with his popular title, saying recently: "We did the work together."

Image: imago/Sven Simon

Deployed at sea ...

The GSG 9 goes into action in hostage situations, in cases of terrorism and to undertake bomb disposal. But it is also deployed to secure locations, as here ahead of the 2007 G8 summit in the northern resort town of Heiligendamm.

Image: Getty Images/A. Hassenstein

... and on land

Most of the GSG 9's missions are confidential, but it is said to have participated in more than 1,900 operations since being founded. It is currently based in the western town of Sankt Augustin, near Germany's former capital, Bonn.

Image: picture-alliance/U. Baumgarten

Always in training

The GSG 9 members undergo rigorous training for all eventualities. Here, they practice dealing with an attack by armed terrorists on a railway station. Plans are now underway to expand the unit by a third and give it another headquarters in the capital, Berlin. Although the number of members is kept a secret, media currently put it at around 400.

Image: picture alliance/dpa/J. Carstensen
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