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German police detain 2, search Islamic center

- Associated Press - Thursday, September 8, 2011

BERLIN (AP) — German police on Thursday detained two men suspected of obtaining potential ingredients for a bomb and searched an Islamic center where the pair had spent time.

The men were detained three days before the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, and detainment followed a weekend statement by the interior minister that threats to Germany remained "real and intensive."

The Berlin apartments of the two suspects, a 24-year-old German of Lebanese descent and a 28-year-old from Gaza, were searched for evidence, Berlin police spokesman Thomas Neuendorf said. The men, who were not otherwise identified, are suspected of working together to plan "a violent criminal act," and police had watched them for several months, Mr. Neuendorf said.

Unlike Britain or the United States, Germany does not have a state of alert but maintains security through increased measures often not immediately visible to the public.

The Islamic center that was searched is located in the heavily immigrant Wedding neighborhood. Some 10 police vans were seen around a building in a formerly industrial area during the search. A sign on the building read "Ar-Rahman Mosque and Islamic Cultural Center for Religious Enlightenment."

"They are searching for chemical substances that can be used to make an explosive device," Mr. Neuendorf said.

The mass-circulation Bild daily quoted Berlin Prosecutor Ralph Knispel as saying that two chemical companies alerted authorities independently of one another that private individuals had ordered a suspiciously large amount of chemicals.

"They could have built a highly explosive device with that," Mr. Knispel said.

Police then put the two men under surveillance for about two months before moving to detain them early Thursday.

Rainer Wendt, the head of the German police union, told the Associated Press the case reflects authorities' vigilance.

"The suspects caught the attention of the police at an early stage, when they bought the material to build a bomb, and the police was able to arrest them in due time," he said.

Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich, Germany's top security official, told the Passauer Neue Presse newspaper over the weekend that authorities "work intensively" to prevent attacks.

German officials say they have thwarted six attacks since the 2001 assault that killed thousands in the United States.

Kirsten Grieshaber contributed to this report.

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