COLOGNE, Germany (AP) – German police boarded a plane at Cologne airport and arrested two terrorist suspects Friday just before the plane took off for Amsterdam.
A 23-year-old Somali man and a 24-year-old German man born in Somalia were arrested before the KLM flight left the airport, a spokeswoman for North Rhine-Westphalia state police said.
Police spokeswoman Katharina Breuer told The Associated Press that officers boarded the plane at 6:55 a.m. (0455 GMT) and arrested the men without incident. She said authorities do not think the men planned to abduct the flight.
Germany’s top-selling Bild newspaper, citing police sources, said the men had been under observation for months and a suicide note was found in their apartment saying that they wanted to die for the “jihad” or “holy war.”
Breuer would not disclose how authorities knew the men would be on board.
A KLM spokeswoman told NOS news in the Netherlands that police boarded the Fokker 50 jet when it was at its “point of departure” and grabbed the two suspects. She said all other passengers aboard KLM Flight 1804 were then forced to leave the plane.
“Then a ‘baggage parade’ took place to see if the two passengers who were taken by the police had bags with them,” the spokeswoman said.
She said the plane took off after an hour delay and landed at Schipol airport in the Netherlands without further incident.
The Dutch anti-terror chief warned earlier this month that the country remains one of the top targets for Islamic terrorist groups because of publicity surrounding a lawmaker’s anti-Islam film.
The National Coordinator for Combating Terrorism said in a report the film “Fitna” by lawmaker Geert Wilders has made the country a “preferred target.” Fitna set Koranic texts against a background of violent images, which the agency said “is considered a major insult and provocation” by terrorist groups.
The terrorist threat has been rated as “substantial” since the film’s launch in March.
Frank Wallenta, a spokesman for federal prosecutors in Germany, said the arrests in Cologne were not related to an announcement Thursday that two men linked to terrorist suspects may be on their way back to Germany.
On Thursday, prosecutors announced that Eric Breininger, 21, and Houssain Al Malla, 23 could be headed to Germany after leaving a terrorist training camp in the border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan. The men are linked to a foiled plot to attack American targets in Germany in 2007.