Germany arrests brothers from Iran over suspected terrorist attack with cyanide and ricin

Further investigation after anti-terrorist operation
Special police units in protective suits conduct a day after the arrest of the 32-year-old man and his brother on suspicion of planning a poison attack in the 9-state of Westphalia, Germany.

Bernd Thissen/Picture Alliance/Getty

Berlin – The anti-terrorist police in Germany searched an apartment in the west of the country over the weekend and arrested an Iranian national and his brother, who are now accused of preparing an Islamist-motivated attack. The 32-year-old man, who was primarily the subject of the investigation, is suspected of having prepared an attack with cyanide and ricin, according to the Düsseldorf public prosecutor’s office.

The suspects were taken into custody on Sunday. It was unclear on Monday how far the plan had progressed, whether a specific goal had been agreed or whether the men had already received one of the deadly substances. Prosecutors said there was no evidence that Iranian government agencies were involved in the alleged plot.

According to the Robert Koch Institute, the federal government’s national health and disease control agency, ricin is classified as a “biological warfare weapon.” Cyanide is also highly toxic; Even the smallest amount can be fatal to humans.

Officials said Monday that during searches at multiple locations related to the investigation, they found a package with unknown contents in a garage that was due to be removed for inspection. Some houses in the immediate vicinity were evacuated as a precaution.

Agents searched the house in the town of Castrop-Rauxel in western Germany’s North Rhine-Westphalia around midnight on Saturday evening. A number of police officers, firefighters and rescue workers attended, and many responders wore biochemical protective suits.

Large police operation in Castrop-Rauxel
Substances found during a search in connection with an anti-terror investigation are examined on January 8th, 2023 at the fire brigade site in Castrop-Rauxel (North Rhine-Westphalia).

Christoph Reichwein/Picture Alliance/Getty

Evidence was removed in sealed blue drums and taken to a decontamination site set up at the local fire department.

The Federal Criminal Police Office in Germany has been investigating the Iranians for several days, according to the Düsseldorf public prosecutor’s office. The US Federal Criminal Police Office (FBI) is said to have alerted the German authorities to the threat of a chemical weapons attack.

During the search of the 32-year-old’s apartment, neither cyanide nor ricin were found, the public prosecutor said.

According to the public prosecutor, the man came to Germany as a refugee and stated that he was a Christian persecuted in Iran. His older brother had previously been convicted of attempted murder after throwing a branch off a bridge onto a highway, seriously injuring a woman. He was a recent resident of a drug rehabilitation facility but was allowed to come home over the weekend.

On Monday, members of the taskforce still searched two garages on properties linked to the man, according to the attorney general’s office, and members of the fire department’s Analytical Taskforce were deployed to ensure safe handling of hazardous substances.

After the operation in Castrop-Rauxel, North Rhine-Westphalian Interior Minister Herbert Reul called on German politicians to make better use of intelligence tools such as Internet surveillance functions in order to uncover and prevent such plans more quickly.

Germany has strong privacy and surveillance laws that largely prohibit domestic authorities from spying on citizens’ online activities or monitoring their movements, although the country is generally quick to respond to information gathered abroad.

“It is important to know early on who is planning something,” said Reul in a morning program on ARD. He doesn’t understand why Germany is neglecting the possibilities of modern surveillance.

“We’re very cautious about that in Germany,” he said, adding that fortunately international security agency cooperation was working well enough to disrupt the alleged plot and catch the accused. Germany arrests brothers from Iran over suspected terrorist attack with cyanide and ricin

Rick Schindler

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