Three Syrian refugees in Germany are being called heroes after they captured a bomb suspect who had been on the run from police for plotting an attack inspired by Islamic State group militants. Jaber al-Bakr, also a Syrian refugee, allegedly had been planning an attack against a German airport or train station when he was tied up by the heroes and delivered to police.
"He offered us 1,000 euros ($1,115) and $200 if we let him go. He had that in a backpack together with a knife," one of the Syrians, identified as Mohamed A., told German newspaper Bild. "I am so grateful to Germany for taking us in. We could not allow him to do something to Germans."
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been widely criticized by political leaders across Germany, including from within her own party, for allowing Syrian refugees into the country at a time when other European nations have closed off their borders. She applauded the three men this week for "contributing decisively" to Bakr’s capture. The prime minister of Saxony, where the incident occurred, also thanked his "Syrian fellow citizens" for their assistance.
The Syrians' identities have remained classified out of fear that they could become targets. Roughly 890,000 refugees arrived in Germany last year.
Investigators had been watching Bakr because of his alleged ties to the militant group also known as ISIS. After he purchased hot-melt glue that can be used to make a bomb, officials raided his home Saturday in the eastern city of Chemnitz and found explosives in his flat, but he was already on the run. Authorities released his picture and asked for help in tracking him down.
Bakr eventually ended up in Leipzig, about 60 miles away, where he approached his fellow Syrians at a train station to ask them for a place to stay for the night. The unidentified heroes, who had seen the picture of Bakr released by officials, invited him back to their place, where they overpowered him and then immobilized him by tying him up with cords.
When German police officers in the eastern city of Leipzig couldn't understand the three Syrian refugees on the phone desperately trying to divulge Bakr's whereabouts, the three men continued to take matters into their own hands. One of them took a picture of Bakr and then traveled to a local police department 12 miles away to inform officials of their capture.
“Tired but overjoyed: we captured the terror suspect last night in Leipzig,” Saxony police announced on their Twitter page Monday.
Bakr, 22, had planned to carry out his attack with the same explosive-making material used by Islamic State terrorists to kill civilians in recent attacks in Brussels and Paris. Hans-George Maassen, head of the domestic intelligence agency, told ARD television that Bakr had bought chemicals online.
"The methods and behavior of the suspect suggest an IS context," said Saxony State Police chief Joerg Michaelis, using another name for ISIS. "It is reasonable to assume that an explosives belt was nearly ready, or had been prepared already."
Bakr migrated to Germany from Syria in February 2015 and was granted refugee status five months later.