Center for Strategic Communication


Bonn Police inspect a bag that is thought to have contained explosive materials. Photograph from ETA.

At around noon yesterday in Bonn, Germany, employees at the city’s central train station were alerted to the presence of a suspicious-looking piece of luggage on Platform 1 that turned out to contain potentially explosive materials. Within hours, police had arrested two Somali men who had been seen near where the bag was found.

Der Spiegel reports that the first suspect, Omar D., was arrested at an Internet cafe, and the second, Abdirazak B. was arrested near a bridge on the Rhine. According to the ICSR Insight website, Abdirizak was identified from video footage of the attempted bombing at the station.

The suspect bag, which was opened by a robot, was found to contain butane gas, ammonium nitrate, metal pipe, an alarm clock, batteries, and also metal containers filled with some sort of white powder. According to The Local, authorities detonated the apparent pipe bomb with a water cannon. The Bonn train station remained closed until late Monday evening, significantly disrupting travel throughout the area.

Both men are well-known Islamic extremists who had been previously detained in 2008 at the Cologne/Bonn airport while boarding a flight for Amsterdam. Although at the time authorities suspected the pair were planning to travel via Uganda to Somalia or Pakistan to join an al Qaeda-linked group, they were released shortly afterward and no charges were brought, ICSR reports.

ICSR also cites Yassin Musharbash of Die Zeit as stating that the two Somali men arrested yesterday have been under police surveillance along with about 20-25 other local extremists.

ICSR notes that “Bonn has been a centre of the German Salafist scene for many years,” and that al Qaeda operatives Bekkay Harrach, Mounir Chouka, and Yassin Chouka are all from Bonn. Harrach, who joined al Qaeda in 2007, was killed while fighting in Afghanistan in January 2011 [see LWJ report, Senior German al Qaeda leader killed in Afghanistan]. The Chouka brothers, who fight with the al Qaeda-linked Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and are thought to be currently based in Pakistan’s tribal areas, were added to the US’s terrorist list in January 2012 [see LWJ report, Wanted IMU leader urges attacks in Germany].

In 2003, a Bonn mosque and school founded by Wahhabists from Saudi Arabia made headlines when parents protested the government’s attempt to close the school, which was suspected of promoting extremism. According to TIME, 10 or 15 people associated with the mosque were under surveillance, and some of the attendees had al Qaeda links.

More recently, in May this year, rioting broke out in Bonn and other German cities when Salafists protested caricatures of the Prophet Mohammad carried by a right-wing German group at a demonstration. In the ensuing clash between the Salafists and police in Bonn, 29 policemen were wounded; two of them had been stabbed.