BERLIN – A 29-year-old man is suspected of planning an Islamic extremist plot to carry out an attack in Germany using the deadly toxin ricin, which was thwarted by authorities who raided his Cologne apartment, federal prosecutors said Thursday.
Sief Allah H., a Tunisian whose last name wasn’t given in line with German privacy laws, was taken into custody Tuesday during the raid on his apartment, and formally arrested Wednesday after a judge reviewed the evidence.
Authorities are still investigating exactly how the suspect planned to use the toxin, but said he was working on a “biological weapon” attack in Germany.
“We don’t know how, or how widely, the ricin was to have been distributed,” said prosecutors’ spokesman Markus Schmitt.
The suspect is believed to have begun procuring material online, including seeds needed for the production of ricin, in mid-May, prosecutors said. He succeeded in creating the toxin this month and investigators found it in the apartment search.
“He procured 1,000 castor bean seeds online as well as an electronic coffee grinder,” prosecutors said. The shell of the castor bean plant seed is highly poisonous and can be used to create ricin.
The suspect is not known to have been a member of a terrorist organization but did have contacts with extremists, Schmitt said.
“He had contacts with people in the jihadist spectrum,” Schmitt said, using the Arabic word for holy war.
He would not elaborate on whether those contacts were online, in person or both, citing the ongoing investigation.
He also would not comment on a report in the top-selling Bild newspaper that American intelligence tipped off German investigators after they detected the suspect’s online activity buying the seeds to make ricin.
Bild also reported that the suspect bought bomb-making material and chemicals used in the production of the ricin.
The daily newspaper wrote that H. lived in the Chorweiler neighbourhood of Cologne with his wife, a convert to Islam, and four children. He supposedly used instructions for the making of a ricin bomb that had been posted online by the extremist Islamic State group.
They woman was initially also taken into custody but was later released.