BERLIN (AP) — A 32-year-old Iranian man is being held in Germany on suspicion of planning an attack with deadly chemicals, authorities said Sunday.
The man and another man were detained overnight in the town of Castrop-Raxel, northwest of Dortmund, police and prosecutors said.
In a joint statement, the man is suspected of planning a serious attack inspired by Islamic extremism, for which he allegedly sought to obtain the powerful poisons cyanide and ricin.
Specialists wearing anti-pollution suits were seen taking evidence outside the man’s home.
A spokesman for Dusseldorf prosecutors later said an initial test of the compound had found no toxic substances, German news agency dpa reported.
It was not immediately clear how far advanced the plans for the attack were and whether the suspect had chosen a specific target.
Dpa quoted Herbert Riuhl, the top security official in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, as saying authorities received “a serious tip-off that led to police intervention that same night”.
Tabloid newspaper Bild reported that the tip about the alleged plot came from a friendly intelligence agency.
Citing an unnamed German security official, there was no indication the suspect was acting on behalf of the Iranian state, but rather he allegedly supported a Sunni extremist group. Sunnis are a religious minority in Iran.
Germany’s top security official thanked police and experts from the country’s disease control agency for taking part in the test.
“Our security services take any information about Islamic terrorist threats very seriously and act on them,” Interior Minister Nancy Fasser said in a statement, adding that 21 Islamist attacks have been prevented in Germany since the turn of the century.
Fesser noted the importance of international cooperation in combating terrorist threats, and said further investigations by Düsseldorf prosecutors would show whether the suspicions that prompted the police action were justified.
Five years ago, German police arrested a Tunisian man and his wife on suspicion of planning a ricin attack in the name of the Islamic State group. They were later found guilty and sentenced to 10 and eight years in prison respectively.
Even small amounts of ricin produced from the seeds of castor oil plants can kill an adult if eaten, ingested or inhaled.