BERLIN: A third suspect has been arrested in connection with the bombing of a gurudwara by Islamist militants in the German city of Essen, police said today amid reports that two teenagers had rehearsed for the terror attack by detonating a prototype of their self-made bomb.
A special police unit took the unidentified man into custody at Essen’s central railway station yesterday evening on an arrest warrant issued against him by a district court in the city, police said.
A person accompanying him was also detained and kept in custody, it said a statement.
Police gave no further details, but media reports identified the third man arrested as jihadist Tolga I, a seventeen-year-old jihadist and sympathizer of Islamic State (IS) terror group, from Wesel in the state of North Rhine Westphalia.
Tolga I gave the orders to the two main suspects to carry out the terror attack.
16-year-old secondary school students Mohammed B and Yussuf T were arrested four days after they allegedly detonated a fire extinguisher filled with explosives at the entrance of the Nanaksar Satsangh Sabha Gurudwara on April 16.
Meanwhile, media reports said the two teenagers had rehearsed for the attack by detonating a prototype of their self-made bomb.
Police found a video of the trial explosion on a USB drive in the apartment of Mohammed B in Essen, TV channel WDR reported yesterday. Different material for making bombs, including detonator also were recovered.
The video showed the explosion of a bomb in an open area similar to the fire extinguisher filled with explosives they detonated at the entrance of the Nanaksar Satsangh Sabha Gurudwara.
Investigators now believe that the blast which ripped through the entrance hall of the gurudwara on the evening of April 16, injuring three persons, one of them seriously, was a meticulously planned operation.
During their interrogation, Mohammed B and his accomplice Yussuf T told the investigators that they carried out the bomb attack “for the fun of making fireworks”.
But, the Interior Ministry of the state of North Rhine Westphalia confirmed last week that the two sixteen-year-old secondary school students wanted to detonate the bomb inside the Sikh temple, which hosted a wedding ceremony, but they failed to break in through the entrance door.
The two teenagers are currently in preventive custody.
Tolga I met the two terror suspects in the Assalam Mosque in Essen just hours before they exploded the bomb, ARD TV network reported in its ‘Report Muenchen’ program.
He had formed a 12-member WhatsApp group in which the two main suspects are members, the report said.
Tolga I also has links to a group of jihadists in Dinslaken town and to the “Lohberger Brigade”, a group of radical Islamists, who have joined the Islamic State (ISIS) terror group as fighters some years ago, it said.
Regional newspaper Westdeutsche Allgeneine Zeitung (WAZ) reported that Tolga I was already detained by police on April 20 on suspicion of involvement in the gurudwara attack, but suspicions against him could not be substantiated and he was set free.
Immediately after the bomb attack, Yussuf T had sent a message to Tolga I via WhatsApp about the operation, the report said.
The newspaper said Tolga I is known to police as an ISIS sympathizer and local authorities have placed a restriction on his travel abroad and impounded his passport because they feared he may join IS in Syria or in Iraq.
Following the arrest of a third terror suspect, Germany’s federal prosecutor is expected to take over the investigations into the terror attack from the state prosecutor. Involvement of at least three persons in the attack will make it necessary for the federal prosecutor to intervene.
The strength of the Sikh community members in Germany is estimated around 15,000.–PTI