Frankfurt bomb plot: Islamic centre had 'calamitous role'

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The Independent Online

An Islamic centre in the southwest German town of Ulm has emerged as the cradle of radical Islam frequented by at least one of the suspects arrested last week for an alleged plot against US military facilities in Germany.

Fritz Gelowicz, one of two German converts to Islam arrested along with a Turkish national last Tuesday, came under the influence of a radical preacher at the Multicultural House in Neu-Ulm in Bavaria which was shut down as a security threat in 2005. After that, Gelowicz went to the Islamic Information Centre in his home town of Ulm, according to German officials. Police have been to the centre in their search for clues as they widen their manhunt for accomplices of the three.

Islam specialist Udo Steinbach said the Ulm centre had played "a calamitous role".

Details are emerging of the massive nine-month investigation, involving 300 officers and agents, that led to the arrests. The breakthrough reportedly came last year when US intelligence intercepted suspicious communications between Pakistan and Stuttgart, which prompted German police to stake out a dozen internet cafes in the German city before placing the chief suspects under surveillance, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The suspects are believed to have had paramilitary training in Pakistan at a camp linked to al-Qa'ida.

German officials said the surveillance began after one of the three was spotted studying a US military base at Hanau with the apparent aim of making it a terror target.

The three people who have been arrested have been identified as Germans Gelowisc, 28, and Daniel Schneider, 22, and Turkish-born Adem Yilmaz, 29. Gelowisc attended the Ulm Islamic centre with a German friend of Turkish descent who was arrested last month in Frankfurt, after being deported from Pakistan.

It appears that the cell members realised that they were being watched, and continued their preparations for a possible attack on Frankfurt airport and the Ramstein American military base regardless. "This underlines their devotion, or fanaticism, in regard to their goal," said the head of the Federal Crime Agency, Jörg Ziercke.

Investigators are analysing evidence seized during Tuesday's raid, including computer hard drives, as the search continues.

On Friday, the German government was urged to make training at a terror camp a crime. However, the federal justice minister, Brigitte Zypries, admitted that it would be "very difficult" to prove attendance. She held emergency talks on Friday with interior ministers from Germany's 16 states, which control state and local police.