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BERLIN — Three men were arrested on suspicion of planning attacks on the U.S. military base in Ramstein and Frankfurt’s international airport, the German defense minister said Wednesday.
“There was an imminent threat,” Franz Josef Jung told Germany’s ARD broadcaster.
He declined to elaborate, but the Sudwestrundfunk public broadcaster said two of the suspects had German citizenship while the third was Pakistani. It also said the men were arrested Tuesday evening and were close to carrying out the attacks.
Thousands of U.S. servicemen and women are stationed with their families in Germany, which hosts key installations including the Ramstein Air Base, Landstuhl Regional Medical Center and Grafenwoehr training center in Bavaria.
The Ramstein base is in the western state of Rhineland-Palatinate and serves as a major transport hub for the U.S. military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Frankfurt’s international airport is continental Europe’s busiest.
German and U.S. officials have warned of the possibility of a terrorist attack, and security measures have been raised, they said.
Germany has not experienced a major terrorist attack in recent years, but worries have risen since July 2006, when two suitcase bombs planted on passenger trains malfunctioned. Several suspects are on trial in Lebanon, and a Lebanese man has been charged in Germany.
Additionally, the leaders of the Sept. 11 terror attacks were based for a time in Hamburg.
German federal police in March said Germany faces an increased threat of terrorism because its military takes part in missions in Afghanistan and elsewhere. German troops do not serve in Iraq, but German ships carry out anti-terrorist patrols off the Horn of Africa and German reconnaissance jets were recently sent to Afghanistan, where ground troops are stationed in the north of the country.
The Germany report came after Denmark’s intelligence agency announced Tuesday that authorities had arrested eight men with alleged links to leading senior Al Qaeda terrorists, thwarting a bomb plot.
Denmark was the focus of Muslim anger and deadly protests last year after a newspaper printed 12 cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. But Jakob Scharf, head of the PET intelligence service, said the foiled terror plot was not connected to the prophet cartoons or Denmark’s involvement in the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq.
The suspects — six Danish citizens and two foreigners with residence permits — had been under surveillance for some time when they were arrested.
“With the arrests, we have prevented a terror attack,” Scharf told reporters in Copenhagen. He did not identify the target.
The suspects, aged 19 to 29, were not identified but Scharf described them as “militant Islamists with connections to leading al-Qaida persons.” All eight were arrested without incident in raids on 11 locations in and around Copenhagen, including the Ishoej suburb and the Noerrebro district of the capital, authorities said.
The suspects are of Afghan, Pakistani, Somali and Turkish origin, Scharf told reporters. He said Danish investigators had worked with “several foreign cooperation partners” before making the arrests.