A Turkish student carrying explosives and a bio-protection suit is being held in Germany after being arrested as he tried to board a flight to Iran. The 29-year-old man, identified as Harun Aydin, was arrested at Frankfurt airport last Wednesday on suspicion of belonging to ?an Islamist terrorist organization planning serious violent attacks,? German prosecutors said. He was carrying both a German and a Turkish passport.
A search of Aydin?s luggage turned up a suit for protection against atomic, biological and chemical weapons, combat fatigues, a helmet and materials to build explosives.A CD-ROM was also discovered that included a training program for ?God?s warriors? with detailed instructions for joining the ?holy war.? This material is typical of ?sleepers,? who are terrorists who lead low-profile, law-abiding lives until they are called upon to strike.
German prosecutors say Aydin is a leading member of an underground Islamic fundamentalist organization in Germany known as the Kaplan Group, after its leader, Metin Kaplan, who is also known as the ?Caliph of Cologne.? He is accused of plotting a holy war against the Turkish government, trying to replace it with a religious regime.
The group, which is believed to have 1,300 supporters in Germany, made contact with Osama bin Laden in the late 1990s. Although Aydin is married to Kaplan?s sister-in-law, he denies he has an important role in the Kaplan group.
Aydin?s lawyer, Michale Murat Sertzoes, says his client disputes the charges and claims his baggage was switched with someone else?s at the airport. ?He met a fellow Turk whose first name was Mehmet at the airport and asked him because he had excess baggage if they could check in their luggage together,? Sertzoes says. He says Aydin told him that the individual pieces of luggage had gotten confused by airline personnel and that some bags that did not belong to him were marked with his name. He added that the fact Aydin bought a return ticket shows he planned to return.
Attorney General John Ashcroft has announced that a terrorist cell operating out of Hamburg, Germany since 1999 included three of the hijackers and three accomplices who are being sought in connection with the September 11 attacks on the United States.
Ashcroft says the three fugitives, Said Bahaji, Ramsi Binalshibh and Zakariya Essabar, are being sought for planning the attacks. German authorities previously issued international arrests warrants for them. Twelve FBI agents have been assigned to various locations in Germany to assist in the investigation.
?Their connections to the hijackers are extensive,? said Ashcroft, at a news conference with German Interior Minister Otto Schily. He identified the three hijackers who were hiding out in Germany as Mohamed Atta and Marwan Al-Shehhi, the suspected pilots of the hijacked planes that crashed into the World Trade Center in New York, and Ziad Jarrah, who is suspected of flying the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania.
The three terrorists who are being sought were roommates in Hamburg while attending school there in the 1990s. Binalshibh and Atta started a Muslim prayer group in Hamburg and Essabar went to Florida in February at a time when both Atta and al-Shehhi were known to be there. Essabar, Jarrah and al-Shehhi all appeared in a video of Bahaji's wedding. ?It is clear that Hamburg served as a central base of operations for these six individuals and their part in the planning of the Sept. 11 attack,? says Ashcroft.
?We must say we failed to see it? beforehand, Schily, the German minister, said of the attacks. ?But to be very open-minded? about it, ?we altogether failed. ... We have to re-examine our security system.?
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