BERLIN • A Syrian refugee arrested in Germany after explosives were found in a flat in the city of Chemnitz was planning to carry out attacks similar in scale to those in Brussels in March and in Paris last year, according to the German Interior Minister.
"According to what we know, the preparations in Chemnitz are similar to the preparations for the attacks in Paris and Brussels," Mr Thomas de Maiziere said yesterday.
Security had been stepped up at airports and train stations after Jaber Albakr, 22, slipped through the police's grasp and went on the run on Saturday when police raided his apartment and found several hundred grams of "an explosive substance more dangerous than TNT".
"We've succeeded, really overjoyed: the terror suspect Albakr was arrested overnight in Leipzig," police said on Twitter yesterday.
Police had said that "even a small quantity" of the explosives uncovered "could have caused enormous damage".
Local media reported that the material was TATP, the homemade explosive that was used by militants in the Paris and Brussels attacks.
Albakr, a Syrian, was believed to have had Internet contact with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Sueddeutsche Zeitung reported.
"The behaviour of the suspect speaks for an ISIS context," said Mr Joerg Michaelis, who is president of the Saxony state criminal investigation office.
According to security sources quoted, Albakr had built "a virtual bomb-making lab" in the flat in a communist-era housing block and was thought to have been planning an attack on one of Berlin's two airports or on a transport hub in his home state of Saxony.
Acting on a tip-off from Germany's domestic intelligence agency, police commandos swooped on his apartment early on Saturday in the eastern city of Chemnitz, about 85km from Leipzig, but he narrowly evaded police.
Albakr was turned in to police by three of his fellow Syrians, who had detained him in their apartment in the eastern city of Leipzig. German media reported that the fugitive had approached two of the men at the main train station in Leipzig, seeking shelter.
When the Syrians realised later that Albakr was being hunted by police, they overpowered him and tied him up in their apartment before calling in the police.
Chancellor Angela Merkel led praise for the Syrian informants while social media users cited the news in their jibes against anti- migrant protesters.
Meanwhile, Albakr's Syrian flatmate in Chemnitz has been formally taken into custody as a suspected co-conspirator.
Albakr had entered Germany on Feb 18 last year and two weeks later filed a request for asylum, which was granted in June that year.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS