An arrested refugee-terrorist who was planning a bomb attack at a German airport asked fellow Syrians for help – only for them to tie him up and call police.
Jaber Albakr was detained overnight in Leipzig in eastern Germany after three days on the run following a tip-off that he may have been looking for associates in the city.
But Syrians he met at a city train station recognised the 22-year-old’s face from ‘wanted’ posters and invited him home before tying him up and raising the alarm.
Ulrike Demmer, a spokeswoman for Chancellor Angela Merkel, thanked security authorities and added: ‘Our thanks and recognition also go to the man from Syria who told the police where the suspect was and contributed decisively to the arrest.’
A major manhunt had been launched for Albakr, who is believed to have links to ISIS, after police raided an apartment in the city of Chemnitz and found several hundred grams of ‘an explosive substance more dangerous than TNT’.
‘We’ve succeeded, really overjoyed: the terror suspect Albakr was arrested overnight in Leipzig,’ police said on Twitter this morning.
The arrest came just hours after commandos raided two separate flats and detained another man in the hunt for the Syrian.
Police used stun grenades as they stormed one of the buildings in Chemnitz yesterday afternoon.
While Albakr lived in a town called Einlenburg, some 70 miles from Chemnitz, he is suspected of using a flat in Chemnitz to construct the bombs.
According to security sources, he had built ‘a virtual bomb-making lab’ in the flat in a communist-era housing block and was thought to have planned an attack against either one of Berlin’s two airports or a transport hub in his home state of Saxony.
As armed police closed in on the quiet residential area on Saturday, Albakr was spotted fleeing the flat. Officers fired warning shots but the Syrian refugee, who is suspected of planning a terror attack at Berlin’s Schoenefeld airport, managed to escape.
A spokesman for the Saxon State Criminal Police Office said: ‘We were preparing to access the property when the suspect left the house.’
It is unclear whether Albakr, who is thought to have links to ISIS, had seen the police and special forces closing in or had just decided to go out.
This morning, Germans were warned to be vigilant as security bosses admitted they did not know where he was or what he was carrying.
Three people have since been arrested in relation to Saturday’s incident and two of the group taken into custody knew Albakr. One of the men might have been involved in the plot while the other two have since been released, police said.
Police confirmed they had detained one person at the address and had used flash grenades.
Spokesman Tom Bernhardt said: ‘One of the inhabitants is now being questioned and our investigations continue. There is evidence of contacts between the suspects.
‘No shots were fired but officers used explosives to enter the apartment.’
An elderly couple living in the same block told MailOnline: ‘It was a large Muslim family living there.
‘They had lots of children, it’s difficult to say how many though. The man was very big and always wore a Kaftan. His wife always wore a Burka but she hardly ever left the apartment.
‘If she did it was only for one or two minutes. But they had many, many visitors, which is surprising because I think they only moved in a few weeks ago so I didn’t think they would know many people.’
At least one member of the family is now in custody and being questioned by anti-terrorist officers.
And it has now emerged that Germany’s security services had been aware of the threat of a terrorist attack for several weeks.
According to German paper Die Welt, security sources say Albakr came under suspicion after authorities picked up internet chatter between him and others discussing bomb-making plans.
Meanwhile, police have defended their actions during the raid on Albakr’s apartment after he managed to escape despite the block being surrounded by armed officers.
Spokesman Tom Bernhardt said police had fired a warning shot after seeing leaving the flat but ‘it was unclear whether the man had explosives and a detonator on him.’
He explained that as the apartment block had not been evacuated at that time an explosion could have caused multiple injuries.
He said: ‘In such a situation we cannot take such a risk.’
Part of Chemnitz’s main station was sealed off by officers on Saturday as a remote-controlled robot was deployed to inspect a suspect package on a platform which turned out to be harmless.
Police destroyed the explosives found in the apartment in specially-dug holes on land nearby.
Stunned residents reacted to the incident last night, with one neighbour slamming Albakr as an ‘a*******’ for his alleged plot.
It is understood that the Syrian had been under police surveillance since last year.
It has been reported that the explosives found contained quantities of triacetone triperoxide (TATP), the same devastating substance used by the suicide bombers in Paris, during attacks in November 2015.
‘Even a small quantity of this substance could have caused enormous damage,’ police said.
New information is emerging about his arrival in Germany. According to authorities, he entered Germany on February, 18, 2015 where he was picked up by police in the town of Rosenheim, four and a half hours from Chemnitz.
He was captured by Federal police and sent to a registration centre where he then disappeared.
Albakr was born on January 10, 1994 in Damascus and his passport photo is said to show a serious looking man with a broad nose, beard and bushy eyebrows, according to local reports.
People on the Chemnitz housing estate have spoken of their shock at finding out their neighbour was a terrorist with reported links to ISIS.
About 100 people were evacuated from the five-story apartment building as the bomb squad worked to remove the explosives, which were not considered stable enough to move far.
Bernhardt said the ‘highly volatile’ explosives were to be either destroyed on the spot in controlled detonations or otherwise neutralized.
German Police later tweeted a picture of holes in the lawn surrounding the apartment block with the caption: ‘ The detected explosive is to be blown on site. The reaction will be carried out in holes which have been excavated for this purpose’
It has since been announced that some of the residents have returned to their homes after police lifted blockades.
Albakr is suspected of plotting a bomb attack on a German airport, according to Online Focus – with the nearest airports being Dresden 60km away and the bigger international airport Leipzig, 85km away.
It is understood he entered Germany last year with refugees from Syria as the nation experience a large wave of asylum seekers from the Middle East.