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ICSR Insight – Attempted Bomb Attack in Bonn/Germany

At 1.30pm local time today, German police arrested a 27 year old male who is suspected of having placed an improvised explosive device at Bonn railway station. The suspect has been named as Omar D. and is known to German authorities as a violent Islamist extremist. A second suspect, named Abdirazak B., is reportedly still at large. He was identified by police on video footage from the station.

This ICSR Insight provides a round-up of the latest information and analysis on the attempted attack, drawing on German media reports, official statements, and interviews with experts.

What about the bomb?

The explosive device was found in a blue sports bag placed on the tracks of platform 1 at Bonn railway station. It contained butane gas, ammonium nitrate, a metal pipe, an alarm clock and batteries. It remains unclear whether the device was viable, but its design and construction appear to be relatively unsophisticated.

What do we know about the alleged perpetrators?

Omar is a German citizen who was born in Somalia. According to Florian Flade of Die Welt, after graduating from high school, he went to study physics in the Netherlands. Like Abdirazak, he was an active member of the Salafist scene in the city of Bonn since 2007, having attended relevant mosques and community centres.

In 2008, Omar and Abdirazak were arrested on the landing field of Cologne airport on a flight to Amsterdam. The suspicion is that they were planning to travel to Entebbe, Uganda, and from there to Somalia or Pakistan in order to join an Al Qaeda affiliated group.

They were released shortly afterwards. No charges were ever brought.

What’s the background?

Bonn has been a centre of the German Salafist scene for many years. It was home to several prominent German members of Al Qaeda, including Bekkay Harach, who was killed in Afghanistan in 2010, and Mounir and Yassin Chouka, who are currently based in the tribal areas of Pakistan.

According to Yassin Musharbash of Die Zeit, Omar and Abdirazak were two of approximately 20-25 local extremists under police surveillance. However, until yesterday’s attack, Abdirazak’s whereabouts were unknown and he was widely suspected of having travelled abroad, while Omar had evidently avoided surveillance but was thought to have remained in Germany.

The wider significance of this incident will become clear once investigators have determined whether Abdirazak had succeeded in joining a foreign terrorist group, received training, and acted on its behalf. If not, this incident might be a further example of the strategy of “lone actor” terrorism, which has been actively promoted by Al Qaeda.