Germany: police arrest two individuals suspected of planning a ricin and cyanide attack
Steph Deschamps / January 9, 2023
German authorities announced Sunday that they had arrested a 32-year-old Iranian man following indications of a possible "Islamist" ricin and cyanide attack, following a warning from the FBI, according to press reports.
The apartment located in Castrop-Rauxel in the west of the country, in North Rhine-Westphalia, was searched during the night to verify the possible presence of these "toxic substances" intended to commit such an attack, according to a statement from the regional prosecutor and police. The investigators have not found "any evidence" on the presence of these products on site, told AFP the prosecutor of Düsseldorf, Holger Heming.
The regional Minister of the Interior, Herbert Reul, explained that the authorities had received "indications to be taken seriously" which led the police to "act during the night".
According to the newspapers Spiegel and Süddeutsche Zeitung, it was the American FBI that warned the German services during the Christmas season. The US federal police would have managed to infiltrate a Telegram messaging group, where the suspect would have inquired first about bombings and then about those committed with toxic substances, according to Der Spiegel.
The man, along with a second person also arrested during the night at the same location, and who according to the German media is his brother, would have considered going into action on New Year's Eve, but they lacked elements for the preparation of ricin and cyanide poisons, adds the Spiegel.
Despite the lack of immediately discovered evidence, Federal Interior Minister Nancy Faeser justified the police raid. "Our security services take every indication of the danger of Islamic terrorism very seriously," she said in a statement.
It remains to be seen whether the justice system will have enough evidence to initiate proceedings.
At this stage, the main suspect is still "suspected of having prepared a serious act of violence threatening the security of the state by obtaining cyanide and ricin with a view to committing an attack of an Islamist nature," according to the statement issued by the local judiciary. According to Spiegel, the man is a Sunni Iranian sympathetic to the Islamic State (EI) group.
Ricin is a highly toxic agent classified by the Robert Koch Institute, responsible in Germany for medical and health monitoring, as a "biological weapon" and is extracted from the seeds of the ricin plant. It can be a deadly poison, like cyanide.
On the images of the private television channel NTV, we can see the two people arrested being taken away in their underwear by agents, dressed in special protective suits because of the biological risk.
In 2018, German police had already arrested a 31-year-old Tunisian and his wife, suspected of having wanted to prepare what would have been the first "biological" attack in the country.
At the home of the couple, who had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group (EI), investigators had found 84.3 mg of ricin and some 3,300 castor beans to make the poison. The man was sentenced two years later to 10 years in prison and his wife to eight years.
Germany has been targeted in recent years by several Islamist attacks, including a ram-truck attack on a Christmas market in December 2016 that killed 13 people.