A 22-year-old Syrian man arrested in Germany for a suspected Islamic extremist bomb plot killed himself Wednesday in a prison cell in Leipzig, Saxony’s state Justice Ministry said late Wednesday.
CCTV America’s Guy Henderson reports.
German bomb plot suspect kills self in Saxony prison cellA 22-year-old Syrian man arrested in Germany for a suspected Islamic extremist bomb plot killed himself Wednesday in a prison cell in Leipzig, Saxony's state Justice Ministry said late Wednesday. CCTV America's Guy Henderson reports.
Justice Ministry spokesman Joerg Herold told The Associated Press that Jaber Albakr killed himself sometime in the evening, but that the incident was still being investigated.
The justice minister said he strangled himself by tying his shirt to the bars of his jail cell and was found by a guard at 7:45 p.m. local time hanging from the bars. The guard tried to revive him but was unable and a doctor declared him dead a half hour later.
Prison head Rolf Jacob authorities who assessed him when he entered the prison had noted there was a suicide risk but did not consider it acute.
He said the suspect was checked on every 15 minutes and given pants without a belt as a precaution.
A hearse was seen leaving the prison in Leipzig early Thursday thought to be carrying the body of the suspect.
Jaber Albakr’s public defender, Dresden attorney Alexander Huebner, said on Thursday that his client seemed like he was “nervous” and “up to something” when the two met.
Huebner, said prison authorities should have had his client under constant watch.
“I’m unbelievably shocked and absolutely speechless that something like this could have happened,” he told Focus magazine.
Germany’s top security official, Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere, said Albakr’s death would make the investigation into whether he had accomplices in the thwarted plot far more difficult.
Facing widespread criticism that such a high-profile prisoner could take his own life, authorities said multiple precautions were taken.
Among other things, Albakr was assessed by a psychologist with whom he discussed what impact his behavior in prison would have on his trial, leading her to believe he was considering his long-term future, Jacob said.
As a precaution, he was given pants with no belt and was checked on at regular intervals.
On the other hand, Jacob said Albakr had refused all food at the prison and had accepted only one glass of water, and had destroyed both a lighting fixture and an electrical outlet in his cell — actions that were believed to be vandalism and “not interpreted as a suicide attempt.”
Wolfgang Bosbach, a senior member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party and security expert, told n-tv that given his behavior, Albakr should have been under constant observation.
“The suicide danger was known, it was not just an assumption,” Bosbach said.
The development was sure to add to pressure on Saxony state authorities, who already had been criticized for allowing Albakr to slip through their fingers as they prepared to raid an apartment where he had been staying in the city of Chemnitz on Saturday.
Albakr, who had been under surveillance by German domestic intelligence since last month, was observed exiting the apartment building and authorities fired a warning shot. He nevertheless was able to elude police on the scene and flee the city. Inside the apartment they found highly volatile explosives and a home-made bomb vest.
Albakr, who had been granted asylum after coming to Germany last year, was finally arrested Monday in the city Leipzig after three fellow Syrians tied him up and alerted police.
Earlier Wednesday, de Maiziere said that Albakr had undergone a security check last year, but it did not turn up anything suspicious.
“There was a check against security authorities’ data in 2015, but without any hits,” he said. “It’s not clear when he was radicalized.”
German authorities have said they believe he had links to the Islamic State group and was thought to be planning to attack a Berlin airport, possibly as soon as this week.
German media have reported that after his initial arrival, Albakr later returned to Syria through Turkey and then came back to Germany. De Maiziere said that was part of the investigation and would not comment.
Federal prosecutors also refused comment.
The three Syrians who captured the suspect have already been granted asylum, de Maiziere said in response to calls for their applications to be fast-tracked due to their heroism.
He said, however, that their “behavior deserves praise and recognition.”
Story by the Associated Press