Six men suspected of plotting a possible attack on the Berlin half-marathon on Sunday were detained by the police amid heightened security in Germany a day after a truck attack in the western city of Münster killed two people.
The authorities said on Sunday that the Münster attacker, a 48-year-old German citizen who turned a gun on himself after plowing into people at sidewalk tables, did not appear to be linked to Islamist terrorism or to hold any other political convictions.
But on a continent that has seen Islamic State supporters repeatedly turn vehicles into weapons to target civilians, the authorities remained on raised alert. In Berlin, roughly 630 officers were deployed along the marathon route.
The authorities said the six detained men had shown a suspicious level of interest in the race. “Ahead of the Berlin half-marathon there were scattered indications that the six detainees, aged 18 to 21, could have been involved in the plotting of a crime linked to this event,” the Berlin police and prosecutors said in a joint statement.
No further information about the detainees’ identities was given.
The police said their initial investigation had turned up no explosives in the suspects’ homes or any indication of a concrete plan. They would not comment on German news media reports linking the suspects to Anis Amri, the 24-year-old Tunisian man who drove a truck into a Berlin Christmas market in 2016, or reports that the group had planned a knife attack.
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Last month, a 26-year-old Palestinian asylum seeker was sentenced to life in prison for murdering one man and wounding six other people with a knife in a Hamburg supermarket in July, in what the court called an Islamist attack.
Members of the opposition party Alternative for Germany have charged that the country’s security situation has worsened since Chancellor Angela Merkel allowed roughly one million people to enter Germany unscreened and apply for asylum. Since then the country has seen a series of attacks by Islamist extremists, as well as a rise of radical groups on the far-right.
Earlier Sunday, federal prosecutors ordered the police to search the homes of eight people in Berlin and the eastern states of Brandenburg and Thuringia on suspicion of founding a far-right terrorist group and illegal possession of weapons. No arrests were made, and the move was not linked to Saturday’s truck attack, said Frauke Köhler, a spokeswoman for the federal prosecutor.
Investigators searching for a motive behind Saturday’s attack — which left more than 20 people injured, many of them severely — said the man had a history of psychological troubles and appeared to have acted on his own. An email he wrote last month indicated suicidal thoughts but “no indication of a desire to harm others,” the police in Münster said in a statement.
“So far we still do not have any indications that the attacker had a political motive or that any accomplices were involved,” the Münster police chief, Hajo Kuhlisch, said on Sunday. “But we do have evidence that points to the attack having been carried out for personal reasons.”