German police arrest ‘Islamic State agent on standby to launch attacks’

Security measures in Germany have been greatly increased during Euro 2024
Security measures in Germany have been greatly increased during Euro 2024 - Story Picture Agency

German police have arrested a suspected Islamic State agent who was on standby to carry out attacks on behalf of the terrorist group.

The arrest of “Mahmoud A” on Wednesday in Esslingen, near Stuttgart, comes amid fears from Germany’s security agency that terrorists could target the Euro 2024 football tournament being staged in the country.

Prosecutors said they had arrested him on “strong suspicions” that he was a member of IS. The Iraqi citizen is facing charges of membership of a foreign terrorist group and for being on standby to launch terrorist attacks in Germany on behalf of IS.

The announcement came just hours before England’s Euros clash with Denmark in Frankfurt on Thursday evening, and amid greatly increased security measures in Germany because of fears the tournament could be targeted by terrorists.

‘Risk of Islamist attacks’

In a statement, German prosecutors said: “Mahmoud A joined the foreign terrorist organisation Islamic State (IS) in Iraq in May 2016 at the latest. In the following period, he also worked as a fighter for the organisation.

“After entering the Federal Republic of Germany in October 2022, he was ready to carry out attacks on behalf of IS.”

Earlier this week, Thomas Haldenwang, the head of BfV, Germany’s internal security agency, warned of a risk of Islamist terror attacks in revenge for the country’s strong support of Israel in the war in Gaza.

This risk did not only involve organised groups, such as IS, but also so-called lone wolves who have been radicalised at home and are not on the radar of security services.

Wednesday’s arrest was hailed by Nancy Faeser, the German interior minister, as a sign that the security services were being extra cautious during the Euros. She said: “Our security authorities are extremely vigilant – they follow every tip-off and strike hard to protect our country.”

More than 22,000 German police have been deployed nationwide to maintain order during the tournament.

Over the weekend, police shot an axe-wielding man who threatened them with a Molotov cocktail in Hamburg, wounding him in the leg. The incident did not appear to have been terror-related, according to German media reports, which said the man was suffering from mental problems.

In one of the most serious terror incidents in Germany in several years, an Afghan man stabbed a police officer to death in the southern city of Mannheim on June 4.

Ataee Sulaiman, 25, also targeted a far-Right activist and blogger notorious in Germany for comparing the Koran to Mein Kampf. German police said the attack was an attempt to silence critics of Islam.

In a separate incident in Wolmirstedt last week, police shot an Afghan man who fatally stabbed a fellow reveller at a Euro match-viewing party. Media reports said the men had been arguing prior to the attack, while police said there were no immediate signs of it being terror-related.