German police said on Monday they had arrested a 22-year-old Syrian man suspected of planning a bomb attack, after a massive manhunt lasting almost two days.
“Tired but overjoyed: we captured the terror suspect last night in Leipzig,” Saxony state police said on Twitter.
Security had been stepped up at airports and train stations after Jaber Albakr went on the run Saturday, when police raided his apartment in the eastern city of Chemnitz, about 85 kilometers from Leipzig, and found several hundred grams of “an explosive substance more dangerous than TNT.”
Police had said that “even a small quantity” of the explosives uncovered “could have caused enormous damage.”
Local media reported that the material was TATP, the homemade explosive that was used by jihadists in the Paris and Brussels attacks.
Albakr was believed to have had internet contact with ISIS, Sueddeutsche Zeitung reported.
According to security sources quoted, he had built “a virtual bomb-making lab” in the flat in a communist-era housing block and was thought to have planned an attack against either one of Berlin’s two airports or a transport hub in his home state of Saxony.
He was finally caught in the early hours of Monday after police learnt that he had sought help from two Syrians in Leipzig, Spiegel Online reported.
Meanwhile, Albakr’s Syrian flatmate has been formally remanded in custody as a suspected co-conspirator of a “serious act of violence” while two other of his associates, who had been detained earlier, have been released.
Police commandos on Sunday also raided the Chemnitz home of another suspected contact of Albakr, blasting open the door as they stormed the premises, and took away a man for questioning.
Spiegel said Albakr had entered Germany on February 18, 2015 and two weeks later filed a request for asylum, which was granted in June that year.
Germany has been on edge since two ISIS-claimed attacks in July — an axe rampage on a train in Wuerzburg that injured five, and a suicide bombing in Ansbach in which 15 people were hurt.
The bloodshed has fueled concerns over Germany’s record influx of nearly 900,000 refugees and migrants last year.
Heightening public fears, German police say they have foiled a number of attacks this year.
The suspicion that a refugee was planning a bomb attack will prove unwelcome news for Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose conservatives have lost support to the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party over her open-door migration policy.
Merkel, who said last month she wished she could “turn back the time by many, many years” to better prepare for last year’s influx of almost 1 million migrants, has yet to say whether she will seek a fourth term as chancellor in elections next year.
German authorities have urged the public not to confuse refugees with “terrorists”, but have acknowledged that more jihadists may have entered the country among the asylum seekers who arrived last year.