German police arrested two men suspected of planning terrorist attacks on Berlin on Feb. 4, according to Reuters. The actions came as part of a series of anti-terrorism raids taking place across three German states, partially in response to recent security threats in cities including Hanover and Munich.
An Algerian man believed to be the ringleader was apprehended at a refugee shelter in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, along with an Algerian woman taken in on separate charges. The man, 35, has not been identified, but he is believed to have entered Germany through Bavaria in fall 2015 by claiming to be a refugee from Syria, according to Reuters.
A second Algerian man was arrested in connection with the planned attacks, and two Algerian men were interviewed but not taken into custody, reports The New York Times. Police and special forces conducted raids throughout North Rhine-Westphalia and Lower Saxony, including the towns of Hanover and Attendorn, as well as four apartments and two offices in Berlin.
The militants are believed to have trained with ISIS in Syria, and are suspected of planning a coordinated attack against central Berlin landmarks and tourist attractions Checkpoint Charlie and Alexanderplatz, although police have not confirmed that these were the targets. Martin Steltner, a spokesman for Berlin prosecutors, said police acted on a tip-off.
"[The raids] concern possible plans for an attack in Germany, even more specifically in Berlin," Steltner told Reuters TV. "Our understanding is that the four men accused could have planned to carry out such an attack together.”
Around 450 police officers seized computers, cellphones and sketches in the latest wave of raids, although according to Steltner, they have not yet found “the smoking gun.”
Funke Media Group reported that security agencies have been monitoring the suspects since January, according to Reuters. Police found that the suspects’ behavior indicated an attempt to hide their plans from security forces, switching phones and communicating over instant messaging.
Anti-terrorism efforts in Germany have escalated since terrorist attacks killed 130 people in Paris in November 2015. The influx of migrants from the Middle East and North Africa has stressed Germany’s infrastructure and its ability to cope with security concerns. The country accepted more than 1 million refugees in 2015, according to Bloomberg.