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Christmas market in Cologne

Photo: Christoph Hardt / Panama Pictures / IMAGO

The Neuruppin District Court has issued an arrest warrant for a 16-year-old youth from Brandenburg on suspicion of planning a terrorist attack. This was announced by the authority. There is a strong suspicion against him of having planned and prepared a terrorist attack on the Internet together with a 15-year-old in North Rhine-Westphalia.

The police in North Rhine-Westphalia and Brandenburg had previously arrested the two teenagers. They are said to have exchanged views on the intention to carry out an attack on alleged "infidels".

Accordingly, 16-year-old Rasul M. was arrested in Wittstock, Brandenburg. According to information from security circles, M. is a Russian citizen of Chechen origin. His alleged accomplice, the only 15-year-old German-Afghan Edris D., was seized by the police in the Leverkusen area in North Rhine-Westphalia. An arrest warrant was issued against him on Wednesday afternoon.

The seriousness of the plans was initially unclear

In Telegram chats, the teenagers are said to have exchanged information about "several possible targets", among other things, according to investigators. These apparently included a Christmas market and a synagogue. After all, the two would probably have decided on the Christmas market in Leverkusen (read more about it here). Various courses of action were also discussed, including an attack with a truck and an arson attack using Molotov cocktails. In the chats, it was also mentioned that petrol had already been purchased.

"A young man wrote in a chat group about attack plans. In the end, they agreed on a very concrete plan to attack a Christmas market. It seemed very concrete," said North Rhine-Westphalia Interior Minister Herbert Reul (CDU) on Wednesday evening. The reference to the young people had come from abroad.

The fact that the young people are said to have envisaged a Christmas market is reminiscent of the attack on 19 December 2016 on Breitscheidplatz in Berlin. At that time, an Islamist terrorist had driven into the Christmas market in a hijacked truck. A total of 13 people died as a result of the crime, one of them years later as a result.

Before the two arrests became known, the Office for the Protection of the Constitution had announced on Wednesday that, against the background of the Middle East conflict, the danger of possible terrorist attacks against Jewish and Israeli persons and institutions as well as against "the West" had recently increased significantly. However, the greatest danger in this country does not come from supporters of Hamas or the pro-Iranian Hezbollah, who are reluctant to make public statements.

Rather, terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda or the "Islamic State" seem to be increasingly succeeding in inciting mainly young people by portraying the victims of Israeli bombing in the Gaza Strip and the humanitarian emergency in the Palestinian territory as part of a supposedly anti-Muslim Western strategy. In Duisburg, for example, an Islamist threat was arrested at the end of October after indications of a possible attack scenario.