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Danish, German Authorities Detain 14 Suspects In Counter-Terrorism Operation

Police officers search addresses in Holbaek, Denmark, on Feb. 6. Denmark's intelligence service said it detained 13 people over a suspected terror plot, with another person arrested in Germany in a "linked" case.
presse-fotos.dk/Ritzau via AP
Police officers search addresses in Holbaek, Denmark, on Feb. 6. Denmark's intelligence service said it detained 13 people over a suspected terror plot, with another person arrested in Germany in a "linked" case.

Authorities in Denmark and Germany have arrested a total of 14 people in the last week on suspicion of planning "one or more" terrorist attacks, according to the Danish Security and Intelligence Service.

The agency, known as PET, said in a release that it had detained 13 suspects in separate incidents, and that German authorities had arrested another person in a case "linked" to the investigation.

Working with police, PET said it arrested seven people between Feb. 6 and 8, on attempted terrorism charges. The suspects are charged with acquiring "ingredients and components for manufacturing explosives" and firearms, or aiding and abetting in the offense. The Court of Holbæk — about 40 miles west of Copenhagen — ordered the detention of another six people on Thursday, PET said, adding that those individuals are "all involved in the case."

"We believe that there are individuals with the intent and capacity to commit terrorist attacks in Denmark," the agency said.

Danish broadcaster DR reports that the seven terror suspects have pleaded not guilty. The charges against the six other Danish suspects or the individual arrested in Germany have not yet been made public. Of the 13 people detained in Denmark, eight are men and five are women.

At a press briefing on Friday, PET operations chief Flemming Drejer said police had made "worrying findings" during their searches, turning up items including ingredients for making bombs, detonators, pump guns and a hunting rifle with binoculars.

Denmark's Jyllands-Posten newspaper reported that investigators also found an ISIS flag, which Drejer said indicates that those involved "may be inspired by militant Islamism."

Still, he said at the briefing that there was "no imminent danger" of an attack, noting that the bomb-making ingredients had not yet been put together.

PET said the case does not change its assessment of Denmark's terror threat, which is classified as "significant."

Nick Hækkerup, Denmark's minister of justice, called the arrests a "major anti-terror operation" in a statement posted to Twitter on Thursday.

"Unfortunately, the case shows that the terrorist threat against Denmark remains serious," he wrote. "But we have a skilled and vigilant police who have shown that they take care of us."

He also thanked German authorities for their cooperation, which PET called "excellent and efficient."

German authorities said three of the suspects are Syrian brothers ages 33, 36 and 40, according to local media reports. Two were arrested in Denmark and one in Germany over the weekend after authorities say they followed a tip about a suspicious online order of chemicals in January that can be used to make bombs.

When investigators obtained a warrant to search the apartment in Germany, they found a variety of pyrotechnics and a "self-painted" ISIS flag, but not the substances from the order, a spokesman for federal prosecutors in the eastern German town of Naumburg said. Those chemicals were found in Denmark, according to Jyllands-Posten.

Denmark has been grappling with concerns over extremist attacks since 2005, when Jyllands-Posten published 12 cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. Such depictions are considered blasphemous in Islam, and the incident sparked widespread backlash.

Danish authorities have foiled a number of plots in recent years. In Dec. 2019, police arrested some 20 people over their suspected involvement in Islamist terrorism. They also arrested a man suspected of planning a terror attack with a "militant Islamic motive" in April 2020.

Journalist Sidsel Overgaard in Denmark contributed to this report.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Rachel Treisman (she/her) is a writer and editor for the Morning Edition live blog, which she helped launch in early 2021.