Man arrested in Germany on suspicion of planning to ram pro-Israel event with truck

Local media identify known jihadist Tarik S. as suspect detained in Essen, where authorities swooped in on him after tip from a foreign intelligence service

Illustrative: A German police car in Berlin on January 24, 2020. (John Macdougall/AFP)
Illustrative: A German police car in Berlin on January 24, 2020. (John Macdougall/AFP)

BERLIN, Germany — Police in the western German city of Essen said Tuesday that they had arrested a man after receiving “indications of a possible attack scenario.”

According to several media reports, the man is a 29-year-old German-Egyptian national who allegedly planned to attack a pro-Israel demonstration.

Whether the man who is “known to police” was preparing an attack “is under investigation,” police said in a statement without providing details of the suspect’s identity.

The suspect was arrested at his home in Duisburg, which was searched by the police, the statement added.

The Der Spiegel weekly and the popular newspaper Bild reported that the police had received information from a foreign intelligence service that the man had, among other things, searched the internet for pro-Israeli demonstrations and consulted jihadist content, fueling fears that he wanted to plan an attack.

The alert was deemed sufficiently serious and the suspect, identified only as Tarik S., was arrested under the Risk Prevention Act, according to the media reports.

Bild reported that the suspect wrote on social media that he wanted to die as a martyr. The outlet cited intelligence sources as saying he planned to target a pro-Israel rally in North Rhine-Westphalia by driving a truck into the gathering.

A neighbor told Bild that “the man was always friendly, but what was noticeable was that he was awake all night and you had the impression that he was building something. It was loud until the morning.”

Police feared that the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas could have motivated the arrested man, who has a long history of Islamist activity, to carry out an attack.

War erupted following Hamas’s October 7 massacre, in which some 2,500 terrorists streamed across the border into Israel from the Gaza Strip by land, air and sea, killing some 1,400 people and seizing at least 224 hostages while firing thousands of rockets toward Israeli towns and cities. The vast majority of those killed were civilians, including more than 250 slain partygoers at a music festival.

Hamas has continued to rain rockets on Israel, which has responded with intensive strikes on the Gaza Strip ahead of an expected ground invasion, as Israel vows it will not rest until the terror group is completely destroyed.

The conflict has prompted mass rallies around the world by supporters of both sides.

Der Spiegel reported that the security authorities had been monitoring the suspect for an extended period of time, as intelligence indicated he mulled attacking police sites several weeks ago as well as other unspecified sites. However, close monitoring did not identify a specific planned attack.

Tarik S. traveled to Syria via Turkey at the end of 2013, where he joined the Islamic State group, according to Der Spiegel.

On his return to Germany in 2016, he was arrested at Frankfurt airport and sentenced in 2017 to five years’ imprisonment for membership of a terrorist group by a juvenile court.

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