Germany: 2 alleged extremists held in possible attack plan

Seized weapons and an IS flag are on display during a news conference of the police in Goettingen, Germany, Thursday, Feb. 9, 2017. Twelve properties were searched in a raid in Goettingen. Police in central Germany say they have detained two known Islamic extremists in an investigation of possible plans for an attack. (Swn Pfoertner/dpa via AP)

BERLIN (AP) — Police in central Germany detained two men they described as known Islamic extremists on Thursday in an investigation of suspected plans for an attack.

The men, a 27-year-old Algerian and a 23-year-old Nigerian whose names weren’t released, were detained during early-morning searches in and near Goettingen. Both men live in the city and have long been part of the Salafist scene there, police said.

Twelve properties were searched in the operation. Information about a possible attack plan had accumulated in recent days to the extent that officials decided to take quick action, Goettingen police chief Uwe Luehrig said.

Investigators found two weapons, at least one of them a firearm that required no permit but had been altered to fire live ammunition, senior Goettingen police official Volker Warnecke told reporters. They also found ammunition, flags of the Islamic State group and a machete.

Warnecke said investigators had been looking into the local radical scene for several months and determined last weekend that the suspects might carry out an attack soon.

Officials could not yet say how concrete and advanced the plans were, including what the suspects intended to and what or where the target might have been, Warnecke said.

The suspects are not asylum-seekers and had “worked sporadically,” he said. Investigators think neither had fought in Syria or Iraq.

Germany was shaken last year by three attacks claimed by IS, including the Dec. 19 attack on a Christmas market in Berlin in which 12 people were killed.

In a separate case, federal prosecutors said Thursday they have charged three Syrians with being members of a terrorist organization. The men, ages 18 to 26, are believed to have been sent to Germany by IS as a possible “sleeper cell” and were arrested in September.

Prosecutors say that the three, who traveled to Germany in November 2015 via Turkey and Greece, were given passports by IS along with a “high four-figure sum” of cash in U.S. dollars and cellphones with a pre-installed communication program.