A Syrian man arrested on suspicion he had planned a jihadist bomb attack on a Berlin airport was found dead in his cell Wednesday after an apparent suicide, authorities said.
Jaber Albakr, 22, who was arrested two days earlier following a tense manhunt after police found explosives in his apartment, was discovered hanged in his jail cell in the eastern city of Leipzig, reported Germany’s Bild daily, national news agency DPA and other media.
“Jaber Albakr took his own life in the Leipzig prison hospital,” the regional government in Saxony said in a statement without elaborating.
Albakr had narrowly evaded police commandos on Saturday morning but was arrested some 48 hours later, thanks to three compatriots now widely lauded as heroes, who recognised him, tied him up and handed him to police.
Germany’s domestic security service had alerted police last Friday that Albakr may be plotting a bomb attack, and police investigators have since said he was thought to have had links with the Islamic State group.
Early last Saturday, police closed in on his communist-era flat in the eastern city of Chemnitz, but he managed to slip away, sparking a weekend-long nationwide manhunt.
Police then discovered 1.5 kilos (over three pounds) of TATP, the homemade explosive used by Islamic State jihadists in the Paris and Brussels attacks, in his flat.
Investigators said the explosives were “almost ready or even ready for use”, and that he was apparently preparing a “bomb, possibly in the form of a suicide vest”.
On the run, Albakr contacted the Syrians, who put him up in their apartment in Leipzig but who then realised he was a wanted terror suspect and turned him in to police.
Albakr had offered them money to let him go, they later said.
The top-selling Bild daily described the trio as “the Syrian heroes from Leipzig”, while calls have grown to honour and reward them.
DPA said Albakr had told the police the three Syrians had been complicit in his attack plans, but it was unclear whether police took that claim seriously.
Germany’s domestic intelligence chief Hans-Georg Maassen said his service had received information that Albakr “initially wanted to target trains in Germany before finally deciding on one of Berlin’s airports”.