German prosecutors allege that one of the three men arrested on Friday on suspicions of planning a bomb attack received his orders from a senior al-Qaeda figure from the Afghan-Pakistan border.

The three men, who had been under police surveillance for months, were arrested in the German cities of Duesseldorf and Bochum after they allegedly purchased chemicals used to construct bombs.

The ringleader of the group, a 29-year-old Moroccan named Abdeladim K, was charged in a federal court in Karlsruhe for being a member of a foreign terrorist organization.

The two other suspects were identified as Jamil S, a 31-year-old German of Moroccan origin, and Amid C, a 19-year-old German of Iranian descent. It is unclear what charges, if any, they will face.

Deputy federal prosecutor Rainer Griesbaum told German media in Karlsruhe that Abdeladim K was in regular contact with al-Qaeda.

Abdeladim K had been in Germany illegally since last November last year, he said. Before that he spent some time in a training camp in the Pakistani tribal region of Waziristan, where al Qaeda operates.

“The trio had planned to set off a shrapnel-laden bomb in a crowded place such as on a bus, but the plot had still been in the experimental phase, he said.

There is intelligence that a high-ranking al-Qaeda member in Afghanistan has been planning several attacks in Germany as early as the beginning of 2010. For this purpose he recruited several dedicated personnel who were trained in Waziristan and who plotted to commit at least two attacks in Germany. These, according to our intelligence, were supposed to have been carried out with weapons and explosives and be directed against representative buildings and large masses of people. Some of the selected attackers are supposed to be back in Germany.

Joerg Ziercke, president of the federal criminal police office said there were a total of seven or eight people in the terrorist cell in Germany.

Hans-Peter Friedrich, the German interior minister, said the arrests succeeded in averting a concrete and imminent danger, presented by international terrorism.

He added that Germany remains a target of international terrorists.”

There is apparently no link between these arrests and the recent suicide bombing in Morocco that killed 15 people.

Germany has recently witnessed a number of terrorist attacks allegedly committed by Islamists. In March, an ethnic Kosovo Albanian killed two US airmen on a bus at the Frankfurt airport. He told investigators he wanted to take revenge for the deaths of Muslims in the Afghanistan war, but denied belonging to any organized terrorist group.

Five years ago, a Lebanese man allegedly planted bombs on trains in Cologne, but they failed to detonate. He was imprisoned for life.

Moreover, the chief suspect of the 9-11 attacks, Mohammed Atta, was based in Hamburg.

Germany has thus far escaped suffering any large-scale terrorist attack.