Four jailed for plotting 'bloodbath' at US air base

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Two German converts to Islam and two Turks were found guilty yesterday of plotting a thwarted attack that a judge said could have killed large numbers of US soldiers and civilians in "a terrible bloodbath".

The two Turkish citizens and two Germans received reduced sentences between five to 12 years due to their willingness to detail how they were recruited, trained and convinced to carry out the attack by the radical Islamic Jihad Union. The case shocked the public in Germany, which has exposed the allure of Islamic extremism to disillusioned young people in the West.

"Increasingly, violent Islam has a devastating pull over young people in our society," Judge Ottmar Breidling said in his ruling, calling international terrorism "the scourge of our time." "This case has shown with frightening clarity what acts young people who are filled with hatred, blinded and seduced by wrong-headed ideas of jihad are prepared [to] and able to carry out," he said.

The four men operated as a German cell of the radical Islamic Jihad Union, a group the US State Department has said has ties to Osama bin Laden and fugitive Taliban leader Mullah Omar. They plotted to attack American soldiers and citizens at facilities including the US Air Force's Ramstein Air Base in Germany, the Düsseldorf court found.

Had they succeeded, "there would have been a terrible bloodbath with an incredibly high of number of dead and injured, above all members of the US Army, but also civilians", the judge said.

Defendants Fritz Gelowicz, 30, and Daniel Schneider, 24, both German converts to Islam, were convicted of membership of a terrorist organisation, with Adem Yilmaz, 31, a Turkish citizen. Attila Selek, a 25-year-old Turkish citizen, was convicted of the lesser charge of supporting a terrorist organisation.

All four also were convicted of conspiracy to commit murder and preparing an explosive device with the power equivalent to 904lb (410kg) of TNT.

"There has never been an attack, or even a plan for such an attack, in Germany," Judge Breidling said. "Not only running through their heads, but also their conversations, was the idea of carrying out an attack on the level of a second September 11."