A Frankfurt court has sentenced two men to jail in separate cases for joining Islamist fighters in Somalia and Syria.
A Somali-born German national, identified only as 29-year-old Abshir A., was found guilty of membership of a foreign terrorist group for fighting alongside Al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabaab militants.
The court in the western German city on Friday (27 October) handed him a prison term of two years and ten months.
The same court sentenced Turkish-origin Ozkan C., 29, to two years and eight months for joining the Sunni militia Junud al-Sham in Syria.
In the first case, the court said the Mogadishu-born accused left Germany for Somalia in 2012 after becoming radicalised and was active for the militant group until early 2014.
He spent around four months in combat training after arriving, during which time Shabaab militia taught him how to handle weapons and employ guerrilla tactics, according to the court statement.
He was then sent to a Shabaab base but left “shortly afterwards because of health problems”, it added.
However he remained in Somalia until returning to Germany last year when he was arrested at the airport.
The accused denied taking part in any fighting in Somalia, where the Shabaab are seeking to overthrow the country’s internationally-backed government.
In the second case, the court said Ozkan C. travelled to Syria with his wife in 2013 to join Junud al-Sham, many of whose fighters later defected to the Islamic State group.
The accused received weapons training and taught Arabic to other German-speaking jihadists, the court said.
He returned to Germany in late 2013 and was arrested last year.
German courts have jailed a number of returning jihadists for their membership in terror groups abroad.
Five men were sentenced to prison terms of up to five years in 2016 for having joined the Shabaab in Somalia.
In another case that year, a court jailed three young German men for up to four-and-a-half years for having joined extremist fighters in Syria in 2013.
Police arrest Syrian suspected of preparing terror attack
In a related development, the police on Tuesday (31 October) arrested a Syrian man suspected of preparing a terror attack using powerful explosives, prosecutors said.
The man, identified only as Yamen A., 19, was held at dawn by special forces in the northeastern town of Schwerin, the federal prosecutor’s office said in a statement.
Several apartments were also searched in the region, which is north of Berlin.
The man is suspected of having “planned and already concretely prepared an Islamist-motivated attack in Germany using very powerful explosives,” the statement said.
“It has not yet been established whether the suspect already had a target in mind or not,” it said, adding that prosecutors did not have any information on whether the suspect belonged to “a terrorist organisation.”
The Syrian had made a decision “no later than July 2017 to explode a bomb in Germany with the aim of killing and wounding as many people as possible.”
In the following weeks, he began to acquire the chemical products and materials necessary to build a bomb.
“A serious attack has been prevented,” German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said in a statement.
“This action came at exactly the right moment: late enough that the necessary evidence had been gathered but early enough to eliminate any potential danger”.
He added: “The threat level in Germany remains high”.
Last July, a 26-year-old Palestinian asylum seeker wielding a knife stormed into a supermarket in Hamburg, killing one person and wounding six others before being detained by passers-by. German prosecutors said the man likely had a “radical Islamist” motive.
The intelligence services estimate there are around 10,000 Islamic radicals in Germany, some 1,600 of whom are suspected of being capable of using violence.
IS claimed responsibility for a number of other attacks in 2016, including the murder of a teenager in Hamburg, a suicide bombing in the southern city of Ansbach that wounded 15, and an axe attack on a train in Bavaria that left five injured.
Chancellor Angela Merkel has allowed in more than one million asylum seekers in the past two years — a decision that has driven the shock rise of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party.