BERLIN (Reuters) - Two Syrian refugees should get medals for their bravery after capturing a fellow migrant suspected of planning to bomb a Berlin airport, German politicians said on Wednesday.
The actions of the two men, who tied up the suspect in a Leipzig apartment and alerted police, have been seized on as a rare good news story in the midst of the migration crisis facing Germany and Europe.
“The young men have earned the Federal Cross of Merit,” Social Democrat defence expert Johannes Kahrs told Bild newspaper, adding they had shown a profound respect towards Germans. “It is hard to imagine more integration, it is exemplary,” he said.
Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said the fact they had acted to assist the security authorities, regardless of the risk to their own safety, deserved to be “fully recognised and appreciated.”
Last year’s influx of some 900,000 migrants to Germany has raised fears about security, especially after migrants were involved in bomb, knife and machete attacks in July. Chancellor Angela Merkel has drawn criticism from her own conservative camp and shed support to the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany.
Investigators believe Syrian Jaber Albakr, 22, who arrived in Germany last year, was close to staging an attack comparable to those that killed 130 people in Paris last November and 32 in Belgium in March. They suspect he was inspired by the Islamic State militant group.
His fellow-Syrians picked him up at Leipzig train station after he contacted an online network for Syrian refugees. After recognising him from pictures on Facebook as the target of a police manhunt, they overpowered him and alerted the authorities.
“He resisted a little bit, he didn’t want to be tied up and then he said, ‘I will give you money, don’t turn me in. I got into this by mistake.’ But of course we didn’t agree,” one of his captors, Mohamed, told RTL German television.
“We respect this country and its people, its government and its laws. We don’t want something like this to happen here,” he said.
The manner of Albakr’s arrest has led to renewed calls for a review of all migrants who were granted asylum in last year’s influx. It has also raised questions about whether the police botched an earlier attempt to arrest him.
Bild showed a picture of Albakr on a sofa in the Leipzig apartment with his ankles bound by an electric cable and one of the migrants holding him in a headlock. “Why didn’t the police manage that?” it asked.
(This version of the story makes clear that Mohamed A. quotes were to German broadcaster RTL, not Reuters TV.)
Reporting by Madeline Chambers; Editing by Mark Trevelyan