German police detain Iranian suspected of planning 'Islamist-motivated' attack

By Christoph Steitz, Stephane Nitschke and Andreas Kranz

CASTROP-RAUXEL, Germany (Reuters) -German police have taken into custody a 32-year-old Iranian citizen suspected of having procured deadly poisons cyanide and ricin to commit an "Islamist-motivated" attack, authorities in western Germany said on Sunday.

The residence of the suspect in the city of Castrop-Rauxel was searched as part of the investigation, according to a joint press release from the Duesseldorf public prosecutor's office and police in the cities of Recklinghausen and Muenster.

Police said the Iranian was suspected of having planned a "serious act of violence endangering the state" by allegedly procuring cyanide and ricin to commit an Islamist-motivated attack. This carries a prison sentence of between 6 months to 10 years.

"Germany continues to be a direct target of Islamist terrorist organisations. Islamist-motivated lone perpetrators are another considerable danger," German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser said following news of the investigation.

"Our security authorities therefore expect preparations for an attack at any time," she said, adding that since 2000 German security authorities had prevented 21 Islamist attacks in Germany.

Police seized electronic storage devices but found neither cyanide nor ricin during the search in Castrop-Rauxel, Holger Heming of the Duesseldorf public prosecutor's office told Reuters TV.


Castrop-Rauxel is located in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany's most populous state, whose Interior Minister Herbert Reul said: "We had a serious tip-off that prompted the police to intervene during the night. The authorities are now investigating at full speed."

Heming said the tip came from a security agency of a "friendly state", without elaborating. Mass tabloid Bild said the agency in question was the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Police said a second individual was detained as part of the searches, adding a decision on whether to issue an official arrest warrant would be made at a later date as the investigation is continuing.

Heming confirmed the person to be the suspect's brother.

Ricin, found naturally in castor beans, can cause death within 36 to 72 hours from exposure to an amount as small as a pinhead. No known antidote exists.

According to German domestic intelligence services, the number of members or supporters of Islamist causes has shrunk by 1.5% to 28,290 individuals in 2021, citing the "military breakup" of the militant Islamic State group.

On Dec. 19, 2016, Anis Amri, a failed Tunisian asylum seeker with Islamist links, drove a truck into a crowded western Berlin Christmas market, killing 11 people and injuring dozens.

News about Sunday's searches also comes a month after German authorities arrested 25 members and supporters of a far-right group that the prosecutor's office said was preparing a violent overthrow of the state.

(Reporting by Christoph Steitz in Frankfurt and Stephane Nitschke and Andreas Kranz in Castrop-Rauxel; Additional reporting by Markus Wacket in Berlin; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)