by Florian Flade
Two years ago he threatened Germany with terror attacks on major cities from his hideout somewhere in Waziristan, now he was arrested – Yusuf O.. Austrian police arrested the 26 year-old Turkish national from Berlin in the Austrian capital Vienna on May 31. There was no press release or any sign from authorities in Austria or Germany that Yusuf O. was in their custody. His arrest was a secret because investigators regard him as a major source for information about Europe-based terrorism supporters and recruiters.
Yusuf O., a German of Turkish origin, was seen as a prime example of integration in Germany. In 2005 he graduated from school with the highest middle school degree possible and shortly after began his studies of engineering at Berlin´s University. On the Internet Yusuf O. described himself as a “pretty creative mind”, someone interested in “spirituality, engineering and fire arms”.
Around 2008 it seems, Yusuf O. rediscovered his Muslim faith. He went to the mosque more often, prayed and befriended with a group of Salafi Muslims in Berlin, among them Fatih T.. T. was a also a “reborn Muslim”, born into a Turkish family whose process of radicalization started in University.
In May 2009 Yusuf O. and Fatih T. left Germany for Jihad. Both traveled to Pakistan via Turkey and joined up the “Deutsche Taliban Mujahidin” (DTM) in the tribal areas along the border with Afghanistan. Several other Germans, including the late Saarländer convert Eric Breininger, were members of that group who began to grow with the arrival of Fatih T. and Yusuf O.
During summer and fall of 2009, Yusuf O. was featured in several of DTM´s propaganda videos. The most famous one was released a few days prior to the German parliamentary elections in September 2009. In it Yusuf O. aka “Ayyub al-Almani” threatened the German public with terror attacks if German troops would not withdraw from Afghanistan. “Jihad will tear down the German walls”, he said, “your security is only an illusion.”
Suspected terror targets were seen in the video including Berlin´s Brandenburger Gate, the Cologne cathedral and Munich´s Oktober-Fest. German counter-terrorism officials called the video “the most direct and most serious threat against Germany yet”. In another videos, Yusuf O. called for German Muslims to came to Waziristan and join the Jihad or to sent money to the Mujahidin.
While his friend Fatih T. rose to the become the “Amir” of the DTM, Yusuf O. made his way back to Europe. Austrian police arrested him in late May. Germany had given out an international arrest warrant for the Berlin Talib. How and when Yusuf O. entered Austria is unclear. The arrest was not made at the Vienna Airport, which could suggest he traveled from Pakistan to an East European country – the Czech Republic, Hungaria or the Balkans – and then made his way to Austria.
O.´s arrest was not made public till other terror-related news in Austria broke and it became known a person with that name had been captured. On Wednesday four terror suspects were arrested in several raids across Vienna. Austrian convert Thomas al-J. was arrested by the police in this apartment while another 25 year-old convert, his 19 year-old wife and a Chechen man were arrested at the airport. They were allegedly on their way to the Waziristan terror camps of the DTM.
Thomas al-J. is a known radical convert who has connections to other Islamists across the border in Germany and was a blogger admiring Jihadi cleric Anwar al-Awlaki. Authorities in Austria believe al-J. recruited the other arrested terror suspects and organized their trips to Pakistan. In his Vienna apartment police found a Computer flight simulation game. Al-J., Austrian media reported yesterday, had trained to fly a commercial airliner in order to attack the German parliament.
All of the arrested Austrian terror suspects were released on Wednesday evening. The intention to travel to a terror camp was not enough evidence to keep them in custody.
Media reports said that the arrests might have been linked to the arrest of the German Yusuf O.. It is very likely O. who has been in Waziristan recently, knew of the supporter and recruiter network in Vienna. Unconfirmed information says he even met Thomas al-J. shortly before his arrest.
Austrian authorities would not comment on Yusuf O. but I received information he is still in Austrian custody waiting to be sent to Germany. Prosecution in Karlsruhe investigates Yusuf O.´s case since he appeared in the September 2009 propaganda video. They accuse him of being a member of the DTM, recruitment for a terrorist organization and support of terrorism.