Germany says it thwarted plot by Islamic terrorists

Attacks said to be planned on Jewish, Israeli targets

September 05, 2002|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

BERLIN - A top German official said yesterday that vigorous police work by authorities here had disrupted a militant Islamic group that was plotting attacks on Jewish and Israeli targets throughout the country.

Otto Schily, the interior minister, said the arrest in April of 12 men suspected of belonging to an "Arab-Mujahedeen network" was a milestone in Germany's campaign against terrorism.

"As far as we know at the moment, this Palestinian-Jordanian group was drafting first plans for strikes against Israeli or Jewish institutions in Germany," Schily said at a news conference timed to coincide roughly with the first anniversary of the terrorist attacks in the United States.

Citing that case, as well as the indictment of a Moroccan suspect in the Sept. 11 attacks, the first such indictment in Europe, Schily said that Germany had done its part in the global effort against terrorism.

"The federal crime agency has done a huge amount to see that Germany does not develop into a place for international terrorism," he said, as the agency's director, Klaus Ulrich Kersten, nodded beside him.

Schily's remarks seemed aimed at critics who complain that German police and intelligence agents should have done more to root out would-be terrorists living in their midst.

He said the anti-crime agency, known as the Bundeskriminalamt, had conducted 72 investigations of Islamic terrorist groups, chasing 23,600 leads with a staff of 600 and a budget of close to $400 million.

Noting the frustrating nature of the work, Schily said that 17,200 of the leads turned out to be blind alleys.

Schily said there was no evidence of a plot against German targets to coincide with next week's anniversary. Fears of terrorism on German soil have risen with the discovery that Hamburg and other cities unknowingly served as hosts to cells with ties to al-Qaida and other militant groups.

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