BERLIN -- German police have arrested five Tajik nationals on suspicion they belonged to an "Islamic State" (IS) terror cell planning attacks on US forces stationed in Germany, prosecutors said Wednesday (April 15).
Four of the suspects were arrested after dawn raids targeted several apartments and six other locations in North Rhine-Westphalia. Another Tajik national was detained previously.
In addition to targeting American military personnel, the five were allegedly planning attacks on individuals they deemed critical of Islam, prosecutors in Karlsruhe said.
The suspects -- named as Azizjon B., Muhammadali G., Farhodshoh K., Sunatullokh K. and Ravsan B. -- are accused of joining IS in January 2019 and initially planning to carry out attacks in Tajikistan.
They then switched their focus to Germany after receiving instructions from two high-ranking IS leaders in Syria and Afghanistan, prosecutors said.
The five men had been planning to attack targets including US air bases on German soil and had already ordered bomb parts online, as well as stocking up on firearms and ammunition.
They also planned an assassination attempt on a person they believed had publicly expressed views critical of Islam and had already begun spying on the intended victim, prosecutors said.
Two of the suspects are accused of accepting a $40,000 (409,900 TJS) contract for an assassination in Albania.
Although they travelled to the country, the plan failed and they returned to Germany.
Money raised in Germany for their own plans and IS in Syria went to financial agents in Turkey before it reached the terror group, prosecutors said.
Ravsan B., 30, was the ringleader of the cell, according to a report in Germany's Der Spiegel weekly.
He had been under investigation since March 2019, when he was found to be in possession of a weapon, according to Spiegel.
Ravsan B. is accused of distributing instructions to the others on how to make explosive devices and of accepting money for the assassination attempt in Albania.
Militants target Germany
German security services have long warned of lingering danger after several attacks claimed by IS, the bloodiest of which was a truck rampage through a Berlin Christmas market in December 2016 that left 12 people dead.
In June 2018, German police said they had foiled what would have been the first biological attack in Germany with the arrest of a suspected Tunisian IS supporter in possession of the deadly poison ricin and bomb-making material.
And last November, police in Offenbach arrested three men for allegedly planning a bombing in the name of IS.
That same month a Syrian was arrested in Berlin, accused of having procured key components for an explosive device and discussing bomb-making tips with other suspected Islamists in an online chat group.
Germany's security services estimate there are about 11,000 Islamist radicals in Germany, some 680 of whom are deemed particularly dangerous and potentially violent -- a five-fold increase since 2013.
Germany remains a target for militant groups, in particular because of its involvement in the coalition fighting IS in Iraq and Syria and because of its deployment in Afghanistan since 2001.