Page last updated at 11:55 GMT, Thursday, 4 March 2010

German Islamists convicted over bomb plot


Prosecutors said the four men had a 'profound hatred of US citizens'

Four Islamists have been convicted by a court in Germany of plotting to attack US facilities in the country.

The men, two of whom were German-born converts to Islam, were given prison sentences of between five and 12 years.

The judge said they had dreamed of "mounting a second September 11 2001" by killing US civilians and soldiers by bombing targets like Ramstein Air Base.

They were accused of operating as a German cell of the radical al-Qaeda-linked group, the Islamic Jihad Union.

According to the US state department, the Islamic Jihad Union was responsible for co-ordinated bombings outside the US and Israeli embassies in July 2004 in the Uzbek capital, Tashkent.


The two German converts to Islam - Fritz Gelowicz, 30, and 24-year-old Daniel Schneider - were sentenced to 12 years in jail.

If the accused had managed to do what they planned, it would have led to a monstrous bloodbath, primarily among US army personnel and also civilians
Judge Ottmar Breidling

Adem Yilmaz, 31, a Turkish citizen, was given 11 years, while Atilla Selek, a 25-year-old German of Turkish origin, was sentenced to five years.

During the 10-month trial, all four admitted to belonging to a terrorist organisation, plotting murder and preparing explosive devices.

Schneider also admitted to attempted murder for grabbing a handgun from a police officer while attempting to evade capture and firing a shot. No-one was wounded in the incident.

He, Gelowicz and Selek renounced extremism and described their actions as a "mistake".

Ramstein air base (2007)
Vehicles packed with explosives were to be used to bomb Ramstein Air Base

Announcing the verdict, Judge Ottmar Breidling said the men had dreamed of "mounting a second 11 September 2001".

"If the accused had managed to do what they planned, it would have led to a monstrous bloodbath, primarily among US army personnel and also civilians," he added.

The judge added that there were now "many impressionable young men and men who have already been led astray, ready to kill for notions of jihad".

"Violent Islamism has penetrated our society and turned young men against it."

'Profound hatred'

Known as the "Sauerland group", after the area of western Germany where three of them were arrested in 2007, the men had trained at camps in Pakistan and procured some 700kg (1,500lbs) of chemicals to produce 410kg (900lbs) of explosives, prosecutors said.

Such a quantity would have been 100 times the amount used in the 2005 London bombings, which killed more than 50 people.

Barrels of hydrogen peroxide stored by suspects that were seized by police (September 2007)
The four men had planned to produce 410kg (900lbs) of explosives

They had allegedly planned to use vehicles loaded with the explosives to kill or injure large numbers of people at locations visited by Americans, the US military base in Ramstein and Frankfurt airport.

But the security services uncovered the plot in December 2006 and conducted one of the biggest surveillance operations in post-war German history.

The men's movements were monitored around the clock for nine months, until it became clear that they were planning to move their huge stores of hydrogen peroxide and an attack was imminent.

Gelowicz, Schneider and Yilmaz were arrested at a rented cottage in Sauerland on 4 September 2007, while Selek was detained in Turkey in November 2007 and later extradited to Germany.

At the time, they were described as "very dangerous terrorists" with a "profound hatred of US citizens", acting on the orders of an "international network".

The BBC's Steve Rosenberg in Berlin says the participation of Gelowicz and Schneider in the plot has shocked Germans and raised concern that militant groups abroad are actively seeking out and signing up Muslim converts to attack the West.

Germany, which has soldiers in Afghanistan as part of Nato but did not send troops to Iraq, has been largely spared militant attacks.

But nine years ago, it emerged that an al-Qaeda cell had used the city of Hamburg as a base for planning the 11 September attacks.

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