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German police round up two suspects after foiled terror attack in Essen

Two suspects in Oberhausen were arrested, possibly in connection with a terror threat, after German police in Essen ordered a shopping mall to shut down on Saturday.

Published: March 12, 2017, 7:17 am

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    According to the German tabloid newspaper Bild the threat was viewed by security services as a potential multiple suicide bombing. The suicide bombers were plotting to attack the Limbecker Platz mall, one of the largest in Germany, with explosives.

    Sources said a German man who traveled to Syria to fight alongside ISIS was the suspected mastermind. He had reportedly been in contact with a number of people in the Essen area to organize the attack, and had also sent them bomb-making instructions via an online chat.

    “The current state of our investigations points to the threat being exclusively at the shopping mall,” German police said in a statement earlier, but later said Oberhausen’s Centro shopping centre was also revealed to be a potential target, with officers stationed there as a precaution.

    One of the suspects was questioned after a police search of an apartment and another was taken in for questioning from a nearby internet cafe. Security sources told the German Press Agency that both had been in contact with Syrian militants, but they were not being treated as would-be perpetrators.

    The mall, as well as adjoining parking garages and an underground rail station were in lockdown while a large police presence surrounded the area with sniffer dog teams.

    “We received very serious indications from security sources that a possible attack was planned here for today and would be carried out,” a spokesman for Essen police confirmed according to the Reuters news agency. “That is why we were forced to take these measures.”

    The mall remained closed for the rest of Saturday, after the German Press Agency and Bild quoted security sources as saying the plot was believed to be linked to the Islamic State.

    Officials said information was obtained on Friday from another, unspecified, security authority and investigations ran through the night.

    An interior ministry spokesman in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, however declined to comment on reports about ISIS involvement in the foiled plot.

    Germany has already been the target of a series of attacks over the past year, with ISIS claiming responsibility for several, including the murder of a teen in Hamburg, a suicide bombing in Ansbach and an axe rampage on a train in Würzburg that injured five.

    In December a Tunisian asylum seeker drove a truck into a Berlin Christmas market killing 12 people, and last July, a German-Iranian man, shot dead nine people at a Munich shopping mall before turning the gun on himself.

    In the past 24 hours Germany witnessed at least three other attacks, including a gas attack on a Hamburg metro, but authorities have denied any links to terror.

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