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IS suspect planning Berlin terror attack

dpadpa 3/11/2016

An Islamic State suspect arrested in Germany was allegedly planning a knife attack in Berlin.

A suspected Islamic State member who was arrested in Berlin had been given permission to carry out a terrorist attack in Germany from a member of the extremist group in Syria, investigators say.

Ashraf al-T, the man arrested in Berlin's western district of Schoeneberg late on Wednesday, had received permission from an Islamic State militant in charge of planning attacks abroad.

"He is thought to have been given permission from there to plan an attack in Germany in the near future," the federal prosecutor's office said on Thursday.

The suspect told police that he was 27 years old and Syrian, but security sources said he is believed to be a Tunisian national who portrayed himself as a Syrian asylum seeker.

According to a report in news magazine Focus, the man was planning a knife attack in Berlin on Monday and had called his commander in the group requesting permission to proceed after waiting impatiently.

The US secret service listened in on the phonecall and alerted German authorities, Focus reported.

Ashraf al-T's full name was withheld in keeping with German privacy laws. He arrived in Germany in 2015 and had been staying with a German volunteer who thought he was a Syrian refugee.

No explosives were found in the suspect's possession.

A magistrate is to decide whether he will be remanded in custody and brought to Karlsruhe, the seat of the federal prosecutor's office, which investigates all terrorism-related cases.

Ashraf al-T had been under surveillance by Germany's domestic intelligence agency for several months before his arrest alongside a German accomplice of a similar age.

Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said he was "very happy" to be able to have the suspect arrested and that German authorities were doing everything in their power "to avoid an attack in Germany."

The tip-off came from an allied intelligence agency, which de Maiziere said was a sign that cooperation between international intelligence services was improving.

Germany has been on high alert since two terrorist attacks in the space of one week in July were claimed by Islamic State. Both were carried out by people who entered the country as asylum seekers.

In October, German authorities arrested a Syrian refugee who had reportedly travelled to a Berlin airport to plan a terrorist attack. He was later found hanged in the cell where he was being held.

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