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Last Updated: Thursday, 27 May, 2004, 19:33 GMT 20:33 UK
'Cologne caliph' manhunt stopped
Metin Kaplan
Kaplan's group wants an Islamic state in Turkey
German police have called off a manhunt for a suspected extremist known as the "Caliph of Cologne", hours after announcing he was a wanted man.

Metin Kaplan vanished from his home in Cologne after a court ordered his extradition to Turkey on Wednesday.

Having alerted European authorities to his disappearance, police abandoned the hunt after another court ruled he could appeal against his extradition.

Mr Kaplan is wanted in Turkey on charges of treason.

His Caliphate State group wants an end to Turkey's secular government.

Time to appeal

At least 100 officers embarked on the hunt for Mr Kaplan earlier on Thursday.

German authorities issued a request for help in the search throughout the 15 states that subscribe to the Schengen agreement, which has opened borders from Greece to Iceland, Reuters news agency reported.

But the arrest warrant had to be lifted after the latest court ruling allowed Mr Kaplan two months to appeal against the decision to send him to Turkey.

The search for him "didn't make sense anymore", a spokeswoman for the city of Cologne told the Associated Press news agency.

Cologne authorities had argued for Mr Kaplan's immediate extradition - but this was dismissed by the court on Thursday.

Prison sentence

The Caliphate State group was banned by the German government in the wake of the 11 September attacks on the US.

The allegations against Mr Kaplan include claims that he planned to fly a plane into the mausoleum of Kemal Ataturk, founder of modern, secular Turkey.

The court decision for him to be extradited was taken on Wednesday in Muenster, near Cologne.

The decision reversed earlier rulings that Mr Kaplan could stay in Germany as he would not receive a fair trial in Turkey.

Mr Kaplan has served a four-year prison sentence in Germany for inciting members of his group to murder a rival Islamic leader. He was freed in March last year.

Dutch theory

Reports in Germany suggest he may have fled to the Netherlands, where he is believed to have a number of supporters.

His movements in Germany had been subject to restrictions, and he was having to report regularly to police.

Opposition politicians had demanded an inquiry into how he slipped through the fingers of the police.

Mr Kaplan's lawyer is expected to appeal against the extradition order by saying her client has cancer and is not well enough to travel.




SEE ALSO:
Profile: The Caliph of Cologne
27 May 04  |  Europe
'Caliph of Cologne' loses battle
26 May 04  |  Europe
'Caliph of Cologne' goes free
28 May 03  |  Europe
Germany targets Muslim groups
12 Dec 01  |  Europe
The European terror challenge
24 Mar 04  |  Europe



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