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TERRORISM

Isis suspects ‘linked to Paris attackers’ held in Germany

German police on Tuesday arrested three men with forged Syrian passports accused of being Isis militants and labelled a possible "sleeper cell" with links to the Paris attackers.

Isis suspects 'linked to Paris attackers' held in Germany
File photo: AFP

More than 200 police commandos took part in the pre-dawn raids in northern Germany to detain the men, who were suspected of either plotting an attack or awaiting orders to commit one.

The men were identified only as Mahir al-H., 17, Ibrahim M., 18, and Mohamed A., 26, in a statement issued by federal prosecutors.

They left Syria last October and travelled via Turkey and Greece – a route used by tens of thousands of refugees and migrants – and arrived in Germany in mid-November.

Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said the three apparently used the same migrant trafficking network as several of the Isis gunmen who killed 130 people in Paris in November last year.

“According to what we know so far, the investigation of the (federal criminal office) BKA points to links to the attackers of Paris from November 2015,” de Maiziere told a press conference.

“There is every reason to believe that the same trafficking group used by the Paris attackers also brought the three men who were arrested to Germany,” he said, adding that their forged travel documents came from “the same workshop”.

He said German police had surveilled the men for months and tapped their phones, meaning that at no stage was there a risk of an attack.

'Awaiting instructions'

Prosecutors said in their statement that Mahir al-H. had joined Isis in its de facto capital of Raqqa, Syria by September 2015 and received some weapons and explosives training.

The following month, all three men had pledged to travel to Europe in talks with an Isis fighter who was “in charge of missions and attacks” outside of the Syria-Iraq region where the group has its self-proclaimed caliphate.

In Europe, “the three accused were meant to either execute a mission or await further instructions,” the prosecution service said in the statement, adding that no evidence of “concrete orders or instructions” had been found.

The men had received mobile phones and four-figure cash sums in US dollars, as well as the fake passports, from Isis, the statement said.

They were detained at three refugee shelters in the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein by more than 200 commandos of the federal police, BKA and police forces of several states.

Police also raided several other asylum seeker shelters, Die Welt daily said.

Warrants for their arrest had been issued by a federal judge on September 7th, based in part on intelligence provided by Germany's domestic security agency, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution.

In July, Germany suffered two bloody attacks claimed by Isis, which were carried out by migrants.

German authorities have urged the public not to confuse migrants and “terrorists,” but have acknowledged that more jihadists may have entered the country among the around one million asylum seekers who arrived last year.

This story first appeared on The Local Germany

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TERRORISM

US vice president lays wreaths at site of 2015 Paris terror attacks

US Vice President Kamala Harris and French Prime Minister Jean Castex laid wreaths at a Paris cafe and France's national football stadium Saturday six years since deadly terror attacks that left 130 people dead.

US vice president lays wreaths at site of 2015 Paris terror attacks
US Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband Doug Emhoff lay flowers after ceremonies at Le Carillon bar and Le Petit Cambodge restaurant, at which 130 people were killed during the 2015 Paris terror attacks. Photo: Sarahbeth Maney/POOL/AFP

The attacks by three separate teams of Islamic State group jihadists on the night of November 13, 2015 were the worst in France since World War II.

Gunmen mowed down 129 people in front of cafes and at a concert hall in the capital, while a bus driver was killed after suicide bombers blew themselves up at the gates of the stadium in its suburbs.

Harris, wrapping up a four-day trip to France, placed a bouquet of white flowers in front of a plaque honouring the victims outside a Paris cafe.

Castex attended a minute of silence at the Stade de France football stadium, along with Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo, before laying wreaths at the sites of the other attacks inside Paris.

In front of the Bataclan concert hall, survivors and relatives of the victims listened to someone read out the names of each of the 90 people killed during a concert there six years ago.

Public commemorations of the tragedy were called off last year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Last year we weren’t allowed to come and we all found it really tough,” said Bruno Poncet, who made it out alive of the Bataclan.

But he said the start of a trial over the attacks in September meant that those attending the commemoration this year felt more united.

‘Overcome it all’

“We’ve really bonded thanks to the trial,” he said. “During previous commemorations, we’d spot each other from afar without really daring to speak to each other. We were really shy. But standing up in court has really changed everything.”

The marathon trial, the biggest in France’s modern legal history, is expected to last until May 2022.

Twenty defendants are facing sentences of up to life in prison, including the sole attacker who was not gunned down by police, Salah Abdeslam, a French-Moroccan national who was captured in Brussels. Six of the defendants are being tried in absentia.

Poncet said he felt it was crucial that he attend the hearings. “I can’t possibly not. It’s our lives that are being discussed in that room, and it’s important to come to support the others and to try to overcome it all.”

Survivors have taken to the witness stand to recount the horror of the attacks, but also to describe life afterwards.

Several said they had been struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder, grappling with survivor’s guilt, or even feeling alienated from the rest of society.

Saturday’s commemorations are to wrap up with a minute of silence at the Stade de France in the evening before the kick-off for a game between France and Kazakhstan.

It was during a football match between France and Germany that three suicide bombers blew themselves up in 2015.

Then-French president Francois Hollande was one of the 80,000 people in the crowd, before he was discreetly whisked away to avoid triggering mass panic.

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