Chemnitz bombing plot: German police searching for Syrian refugee on suspicion of ‘planning terror attack’

City’s main railway station closed as two people ‘provisionally arrested’

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The Independent Online

German police are searching for a Syrian refugee as part of an operation to foil a suspected terror plot in Germany.

Saxony Police have issued an appeal for help tracing Jaber al-Bakr, a 22-year-old asylum seeker from Damascus province.

A spokesperson said he was “suspected of preparing a bomb attack” but told The Independent reports of plans to target a German airport could not be confirmed.

Jaber al-Bakr, a Syrian asylum seeker wanted by German police on suspicion of planning a terror attack (Polizei Sachsen)

The alert was put out during a lockdown in the city of Chemnitz, where authorities said they were investigating a terror plot.

The city’s main railway station was temporarily closed after two people were arrested, with authorities checking baggage at the station.

Scores of armed officers had evacuated residents and cordoned off large areas of the Fritz Heckert district on Saturday morning.

A second wave of evacuations started hours later after police found “highly volatile explosives” during searches, sparking a wider safety cordon.

Tom Bernhardt, a spokesperson for the state criminal police, said investigators found more than 100g of the material at a flat linked to the suspect.

Police officers during a counter-terror operation in Chemnitz, Germany, on 8 October (EPA)

“As to the background, motivation and so on – that we don’t know,” he added.

Mr Bernhardt said three people had been arrested – two at the railway station and one in Chemnitz city centre – who were all known to the suspect and may be linked to the plot.

He added that al-Bakr would be found “as soon as possible”, describing him as dangerous.

“Currently we do not know where he is and what he is carrying with him,” Saxony Police warned on social media.

Officials said a flat used by al-Bakr was searched, with officers blowing a door off to gain access, but “a person of interest could not be found”.

Families living in the flat block told MDR Sachsen they were woken early in the morning by police with machine guns, telling them to leave the building, when they were taken away from the area on buses.

Officials issued an appeal for residents not to share any images or footage of the operation on social media.

“Major road closers and evacuations are necessary,” a spokesperson said: “Within the cordoned-off area, please stay in your homes and follow the instructions of police.”

Videos and photos of a man alleged to be the suspect were circulating on social media, with footage showing a person walking down a residential road. Police would not confirm the speculation.

Security remains high in the country after two terror attacks by Isis supporters earlier this year, with a Syrian refugee blowing himself up in Ansbach and an Afghan teenager attacking train passengers with an axe in Würzburg.

More than a million asylum seekers arrived in Germany last year, when Chancellor Angela Merkel opened the borders to Syrians fleeing the country's brutal civil war.

The decision has been heavily criticised by right-wing and anti-immigration groups gaining increasing popularity amid concern over terrorism and the mass sexual assaults in Cologne.

Europol estimates that up to 5,000 European jihadis may have undergone training at terror camps, with an unknown number exploiting refugee routes to return the continent as it faces its “biggest terror threat in more than a decade”.

Earlier this year, police said they were investigating more than 400 tip-offs over migrants alleged to have extremist links in Germany.