An Algerian man and a Nigerian man were detained in central Germany on Thursday on suspicion of preparing an attack with a machete and guns, which were confiscated, as about 450 police officers swooped down on 12 locations.
Eleven of the 12 raided sites were in or near the university town of Göttingen, in the state of Lower Saxony; the other was in the northern part of the state of Hesse.
The Algerian, 27, and the Nigerian, 23, whose names were not disclosed, both lived with their families in Göttingen, the authorities said. The city’s police chief, Uwe Lührig, said that live ammunition was found with the weapons and that an attack had been planned. Photographs also showed a machete among the items confiscated.
Neither the police chief nor Boris Pistorius, the interior minister of Lower Saxony, provided additional details. However, the minister said the raids on Thursday represented “a very important success” against terrorism.
Over the last week, the authorities have also reported the arrests of three Afghans — all in their 20s, but in different parts of Germany — suspected of ties to the Taliban.
The authorities appear to have stepped up the number of raids on people suspected of being Islamic militants or extremists since a Tunisian man, Anis Amri, drove a truck into a Christmas market in Berlin on Dec. 19, killing 12 and wounding 50. Mr. Amri was killed days later in a shootout with police officers in a suburb of Milan.
Security is a delicate issue in Germany, where national elections are scheduled for Sept. 24 and Chancellor Angela Merkel has drawn criticism for allowing more than a million refugees into the country since early 2015. Although the influx has slowed, investigators confirmed that Mr. Amri entered Germany that year despite having a police and prison record in Italy. He also used at least 14 aliases to draw benefits.
A far-right party, the Alternative for Germany, has found success at a time of anti-migrant and anti-Muslim sentiment, capturing seats in 10 of 16 state legislatures. Polls suggest that the party could receive around 12 percent of the national vote in September, a showing that would easily clear the 5 percent hurdle needed for seats in the federal Parliament.
Last month, about 1,100 police officers, many of them heavily armed and in body armor, raided dozens of homes, offices and two mosques, mostly in the Frankfurt area. Another Tunisian suspected of having ties to Islamic militants was detained.
The German authorities have also arrested several dozen people believed to be linked to the right-wing Reichsbürger movement, which does not recognize the current borders of Germany. The group did not attract much attention until the fall, when a member shot and killed an antiterrorism officer during a raid on his home in northern Bavaria.
Officials now say about 10,000 people are linked to the Reichsbürger movement. Islamic extremists known as Salafists are estimated to number around 9,200 across the country.
Just last week, Mr. Pistorius told the State Legislature of Lower Saxony that about 45 people were listed as “endangerers” in that state alone, a category of possible assailants that signals that the authorities are watching them.
The two men detained on Thursday were both listed as endangerers, the authorities said.
Mr. Pistorius, speaking to the public broadcaster NDR, said the raids were‚ “as far as we know now, an extraordinarily important blow against the Islamist scene in Lower Saxony.”
He continued, “Here we have taken two Islamist endangerers into custody after investigation gave clear indications that a terrorist crime was planned.”
NDR noted that a man identified as a 26-year-old Algerian had been detained in Göttingen in March because he was suspected of trying to buy weapons illegally. Julia Huhnold, a spokeswoman for the city’s police, said she could not confirm if this was the same man as the 27-year-old Algerian reported as detained on Thursday.
By: Alison Smale, 9 February 2017, The New York Times, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/09/world/europe/germany-arrests.html