Dortmund attack: No links found between suspect and bombing

Man held over links to Isis but search continues for suspects in attack on team bus

German prosecutors have found no link between an Iraqi man in custody and Tuesday’s Borussia Dortmund (BVB) bus bombing, but have arrested him over suspected links to Islamic State.

The 26-year-old, identified only as Abdul Beset A, was taken into custody on Wednesday after police raided his apartment in the western city of Wuppertal.

“The investigation to date have shown no indication that the accused was involved in the attack,” said Germany’s federal prosecutor on Thursday morning. Instead of releasing the man within 24 hours, however, prosecutors brought him before a remand judge to secure a warrant for his arrest on suspicion of having joined Islamic State, also known as Isis, in Iraq in 2014

“According to our knowledge he led a unit of around 10 persons,” said the prosecutor in a statement. “His unit’s tasks were to prepare hostage-takings and killings.”


The man left Iraq for Turkey in 2015, arrived in Germany last year where, according to the prosecutor, he made contact with other people with Isis links.

Prosecutors made no reference in their statement to a second bombing suspect, a 28-year-old who was not taken into custody on Wednesday but whose apartment was also searched.

Two days after the bomb attack on the BVB bus ahead of a Champions League match against Monaco, the search for the suspects continues.

Three explosive devices containing shrapnel injured two men, including a Dortmund player, and forced the match to be rescheduled for Wednesday evening. Dortmund lost the first leg 3-2 to Monaco.


Police found three copies of a letter at the scene of the explosions, dedicated to “Allah the merciful”, promising further attacks on German celebrities and sports stars unless Germany curtailed its involvement in military reconnaissance in Syria.

Islamist terror experts have raised doubts over the letters’ authenticity, as they lack any of the usual symbols of Isis, an organisation not in the habit of sending such documents. Police in Dortmund say they are keeping an open mind and investigating in all directions. One theory is that the letters were a false lead, planted by Dortmund’s active far-right scene.

As the investigation continues, chancellor Angela Merkel has said Germany’s federal states must co-operate better to fight terrorist threats, and warned people against rushing to collective judgment against all refugees and asylum seekers.

“We will never resign ourselves to terror,” said Dr Merkel in an newspaper interview on Thursday. “We know that we, like many other countries, are threatened and are doing everything in our power to ensure security for our citizens.”

The German leader complained that these efforts were complicated by Germany’s decentralised federal structure, with 16 different states all with their own police forces, prosecutors, intelligence services and laws.

Dr Merkel promised to provide further resources for staff and infrastructure, but pointed out a problem caused by the fact that not all federal states conducted automatic terror checks on asylum seekers.

For months Berlin has been demanding a centralisation of terrorist investigations at federal level. In the interview the chancellor repeated her vow to “adapt laws, where necessary” to cope with a growing terrorist threat.

Dr Merkel insisted Germany had long been a target of Islamist terror but, following a series of Isis-related attacks last year, said it “goes without question” that some of the new arrivals were security threats.

“We owe it to respectable refugees to act firmly against those who abuse our readiness to help in such a despicable fashion,” she said.

Derek Scally

Derek Scally

Derek Scally is an Irish Times journalist based in Berlin