A Syrian refugee suspected of planning a terrorist attack in Germany on behalf of Islamic State was captured by police early Monday in the eastern city of Leipzig after another Syrian lured him to an apartment, tied him up with the help of other refugees and turned him over to police.
Jaber Albakr, a 22-year-old refugee, had been on the run and the subject of a nationwide manhunt since Saturday, when he fled an apartment in Chemnitz, near the Czech border, just as police stormed it. Authorities said they found a cache of explosives and other bomb-making material inside the apartment.
Albakr was taken to Dresden, the capital of Saxony state, and charged with being an accomplice in preparations for a major act of violence.
“The actions of the suspect point towards an IS connection,” Joerg Michaelis, president of the Saxony state crime office, said at a news conference. “We’re all relieved that he’s been caught now.”
Michaelis said the suspect had approached a fellow Syrian at the Leipzig train station shortly before 1 a.m. Monday and asked whether the latter could shelter him. The fellow refugee agreed but quickly recognized him as a wanted man from police photographs circulated in the German media over the weekend.
Michaelis said the Syrians tied up Albakr, took his photograph and then took the cellphone picture to a local police station.
Police found materials in the Chemnitz apartment that they believe to be TAPT — the explosive used in Islamic State attacks in Paris last year and Brussels this year, Michaelis added.
Albakr was registered as a refugee in Munich in February and was granted a permit in June to stay for three years, Michaelis said.
German news media reported that authorities received the tip about Albakr, who arrived in Germany in late 2015, from foreign intelligence agencies that picked up Internet chatter between the suspect and others discussing how to make bombs.
More than 1 million refugees have arrived in Germany over the last two years, many fleeing the war in Syria or violence in Iraq and Afghanistan.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s open-door policy on refugees was initially cheered by most Germans, but support has dwindled over the last 10 months after several terrorism incidents, including a pair of bungled Islamic State-inspired attacks by two “lone wolves” in which the suspects were the only people killed. There have also been reports of assaults on women by refugees from northern Africa.
Political scientists and foreign diplomats worry that public support for Merkel could evaporate if there were a major terrorist attack in Germany before September’s federal election, when Merkel is expected to run for a fourth four-year term.
Merkel expressed her thanks to the Syrian refugee who led police to the suspect.
“We recognize and are grateful to the man from Syria who informed the police of his whereabouts and helped police arrest him,” said Merkel spokeswoman Ulrike Demmer.
Kirschbaum is a special correspondent.