BERLIN (AFP) – Two Iranian men have been arrested in Germany following information from US security officials that at least one of them may be planning a deadly chemical attack, officials said Sunday.
Police and prosecutors said the two brothers, aged 32 and 25, were arrested overnight in the town of Castrop-Rauxel, northwest of Dortmund.
Authorities said in a joint statement that the men were suspected of planning a serious attack motivated by Islamic extremism, for which they allegedly sought the powerful poisons cyanide and ricin.
The specialists in anti-contamination suits were seen carrying evidence from the older man’s home. Dusseldorf prosecutors later said that an initial inspection of the building showed no toxic materials.
It was not immediately clear how advanced the plans for the attack were and whether the suspects had chosen a specific target, but prosecutors said they would ask the court to keep the imprisoned men pending further investigation.
If found guilty of jointly masterminding a deadly attack, the men – identified by prosecutors only as MJ and JJ due to German privacy rules – could face between three and 15 years in prison.
The German news agency (dpa) quoted Herbert Roel, a senior security official in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, as saying that the authorities had received “serious information that prompted the police to intervene on the same night.” Dusseldorf prosecutors said the information came from authorities in the United States, but declined to elaborate.
Germany’s top security official thanked the police and specialists from the country’s disease control agency who took part in the raid.
“Our security services take any information about Islamic terrorist threats seriously and act,” Interior Minister Nancy Farr said in a statement, adding that 21 Islamist attacks had been prevented in Germany since the beginning of the century.
Noting the importance of international cooperation in combating extremist threats, Visser said further investigations by Düsseldorf prosecutors would show whether the suspicions that led to the police operation were justified.
Five years ago, German police arrested a Tunisian man and his wife on suspicion of planning to carry out a ricin attack in the name of the Islamic State. They were later found guilty He was sentenced to 10 and 8 years in prison, respectively.
Even small amounts of ricin, which is produced from the seeds of castor oil plants, can kill an adult if ingested, injected, or inhaled.
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