Germany: Alleged Christmas Terror Plotter IS Islamist

Germany: Alleged Christmas Terror Plotter IS Islamist

An alleged Islamist suspected of being involved with the Islamic State in Afghanistan performed hostile reconnaissance at Cologne Cathedral, one of the largest and most visited churches in the world, security sources cited in German newspapers asserted on Thursday.

The 30-year-old man, who is an immigrant to Germany from Tajikistan in Central Asia, is said to be the only individual kept in custody after “several” people were arrested by police over a plot in the run-up to Christmas.

The plot was said to have considered both Cologne Cathedral and St Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna, Austria as potential targets, and the arrested man is reported by Welt as being suspected as having conducted reconnaissance on the Cologne church.

A security source speaking to the paper said of these visits: “we know that he was there”. The man had not previously been known to security services as an extremist, but he is now allegedly suspected of being linked to the Islamic State of the Khorasan Province.

The Tajik male held is being kept in custody to “prevent danger” to the public, Tagesschau reports, noting a court had permitted police to keep the man locked up until January 7th. The outlet reports a police spokesman who said: “We are exhausting all legal options to protect the people, the cathedral and the upcoming New Year’s Eve celebrations.”

In the meanwhile, the cathedral remains open for religious services but those who wish to attend have to go through security screening, and tourism including entry to the church outside services and roof tours have been suspended until next year.

Cologne Cathedral is remarkable for its beauty and sheer scale. It is one of the largest cathedrals in the world, and one of the tallest, but for most of its history it was a building site. The half-completed church, including a massive medieval wooden crane on the roof, dominated the Cologne skyline for 400 years until an effort to complete the cathedral got underway in the 19th century. The expense of the build was so great, the charity which raised funds for it from 1842 was the largest on earth.