German police found on Saturday several hundred grams of “explosive materials” in the east German apartment of a Syrian man suspected of planning a bomb attack, started to follow his trail, and arrested three people connected to him.
Police appealed to the public to call them with any information on Jaber Albakr, 22, who was last seen in the eastern city of Chemnitz wearing a black hooded top with a bright pattern on the front.
“The search for the suspect is ongoing,” Saxony state police tweeted. “At the moment, however, we do not know where he is and what he is carrying with him. Be careful.”
The suspect who remains at large, 22-year-old Syrian Jaber Albakr, could have had “an Islamist motive” sources close to the police told AFP.
“Highly explosive materials were found in the apartment concerned in Chemnitz, new evacuation measures are necessary,” tweeted police in Germany’s east.
Officers found “several hundred grams (of a) very dangerous substance which cannot be moved without protective measures”, said police spokesman Tom Bernhardt.
Police detained three people in Chemnitz who they said were known to Albakr, but he remained at large.
“Questioning (of the detainees) is continuing. The results are still to come,” said Tom Bernhardt, spokesman for the Saxony state criminal investigation office.
Two of those arrested were seized close to the city’s railway station while the other was taken into custody in the city centre. A package belonging to one of those arrested was undergoing analysis, police added.
“They were known to the suspect we are looking for and were arrested and detained,” said Bernhardt who added that the trio were being questioned.
Hundreds of police including specialist commandos combed a residential area in Chemnitz looking for Albakr.
The police deployment followed a tip-off from the domestic intelligence service, though the “where, when, how and why” of the planned attack remained unclear, said Bernhardt.
They added that Albakr was wearing a black hooded sweatshirt and was “suspected of preparing a bomb attack” and issued an image of the man.
He arrived in Germany as a refugee last year and was under interior ministry surveillance for a period, according to Focus magazine, which cited intelligence sources.
A vast police operation was underway as heavily armed officers, some wearing balaclavas, combed the area around Albakr’s apartment and local residents were evacuated.
An explosion was heard in the leafy Chemnitz suburb which investigators said was a police entry device.
Part of the city’s main station was sealed off by officers as a remote-controlled robot was deployed to inspect a suspect package on a platform.
German police said previously they had identified 523 people who posed a security threat to the country, around half of whom were known to be currently in Germany.
On September 21 German officials said a 16-year-old Syrian refugee had been arrested on suspicion of planning a bomb attack in the name of IS.
The youngster, thought to have been radicalised only recently, was detained in a special forces operation at a shelter for asylum-seekers in the western city of Cologne, police and prosecutors said.
Initial information gathered from the teenager’s mobile phone showed that he had expressed an “unmistakeable willingness” to carry out an attack, Klaus-Stephan Becker of the Cologne police told reporters.
A week earlier, German police detained three men with forged Syrian passports accused of being ISIS militants and labelled a possible “sleeper cell” with links to the assailants behind the November attacks in Paris.
More than 200 police took part in pre-dawn raids in northern Germany to detain the men, suspected of either plotting an attack or awaiting orders to commit one.
More than a million asylum seekers arrived in Germany last year, when Angela Merkel opened the borders to Syrians fleeing the country’s brutal civil war.
The decision has been heavily criticised by right-wing and anti-immigration groups gaining increasing popularity amid concern over terrorism and the mass sexual assaults in Cologne.
German authorities have urged the public not to confuse migrants with “terrorists”, but have acknowledged that more jihadists may have entered the country among the one million asylum-seekers who arrived last year.
Europol estimates that up to 5,000 European jihadists may have undergone training at terror camps, with an unknown number exploiting refugee routes to return the continent as it faces its “biggest terror threat in more than a decade”.