German police on Friday detained three alleged members of Al Qaeda, federal prosecutors said, as a report said they had been plotting attacks in Germany.
The prosecutor’s office in the southwestern city of Karlsruhe said the trio had been taken into custody early Friday and would appear before a judge Saturday, when a news conference has been scheduled.
It declined to provide further details.
Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich said the arrests had “averted a concrete, immediate threat… we must remain vigilant,” according to a message by government spokesman Steffen Seibert on micro-blogging site Twitter.
The daily Bild reported that the three were Germans of Moroccan origin from the western German state of North Rhine-Westphalia and were caught with “large amounts of explosives”.
Citing security sources, the newspaper said they were suspected of plotting attacks in Germany. They came to the attention of the Federal Crime Office during surveillance of mobile phone and computer communications.
Bild identified them as Abdeladim K, Jamil S and Ahmed Sh.
The daily Rheinische Post based in Duesseldorf, the capital of North Rhine-Westphalia, reported in an advance copy of its Saturday issue that the suspects had tested explosives, citing sources close to the investigation.
It said the men had been under surveillance since late 2010 and attracted the attention of the authorities when they attempted to buy large amounts of key chemicals at pharmacies.
German authorities hiked security measures in November after US authorities warned of an Al Qaeda plot to carry out “Mumbai-style” attacks in Britain, France and Germany.
US authorities handed over to Germany last week the source of the tip, alleged militant Ahmed Wali Siddiqui, who had been held for nine months in Afghanistan.
The GdP police union said the arrests showed “that the threat remains high and that investigating authorities must be well staffed and well equipped”.
Germany, which opposed the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq but has nearly 5,000 troops in Afghanistan under Nato command, has never experienced an attack by extremists on its own soil.
But the German authorities say the extremist threat is large and dangerous. Agencies