German prosecutors probing 12-year-old boy's reported attempt to blow up bomb at Christmas market

BERLIN (AFP) - German prosecutors said Friday (Dec 16) they were investigating a case in which a 12-year-old boy allegedly tried to detonate a home-made nail bomb at a Christmas market.  

News weekly Focus first reported the case, saying a German-Iraqi child had plotted the attack, possibly after being radicalised by Islamic State in Iraq and Syria extremists.  

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert said “a report like this is frightening” but declined further comment, saying the matter was in the hands of prosecutors.  

The home-made device – a glass jar filled with a combustible powder and nails – was discovered on Dec 5 in the western city of Ludwigshafen and destroyed by a police bomb squad.  

Stefan Biehl of the federal prosecution service, which handles terrorism cases, told AFP that “I can confirm that we have started an investigation based on the discovery of a nail bomb in Ludwigshafen”.  

Focus magazine, citing unnamed judicial and security sources, said the boy was thought to have been “strongly religiously radicalised” and possibly received instructions from an unknown ISIS member.  

The report said the boy first tried to detonate the device at the city’s Christmas market on Nov 26.  Then, on Dec 5, he allegedly hid the explosive with a detonator in a backpack in bushes near the city’s town hall, where a passer-by spotted it and informed police.  

The boy, who is too young to face a German court, was detained and placed into a juvenile care facility, said Focus weekly.

Local prosecutor Hubert Stroeber told AFP that to call the device a bomb would be an exaggeration. He said that although the powder was combustible, it was unclear whether it would have exploded.