2007 bomb plot in Germany

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2007 bomb plot in Germany
LocationMedebach, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany
TargetRamstein Air Base, Frankfurt Airport and other public locations
Attack type
Car bombing, mass murder (attempted)
WeaponsHydrogen peroxide and military-grade detonators
Non-fatal injuries
PerpetratorsF. G., A. S., D. S., A. Y.

The 2007 bomb plot in Germany, planned by the Islamic Jihad Union (IJU)-affiliated Sauerland terror cell (German: Sauerland-Gruppe, lit. 'Sauerland Group'), was discovered following an extensive nine-month investigation that involved more than 600 agents.[1] Three men were arrested on 4 September 2007 while leaving a rented cottage[2] in the Oberschledorn district of Medebach, Germany where they had stored 700 kg (1,500 lb) of a hydrogen peroxide-based mixture and 26 military-grade detonators[3][4] and were attempting to build car bombs.[5] A supporter was arrested in Turkey. All four had attended an IJU-training camp in the border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan in 2006.[1] They were convicted in 2010 and given long prison sentences, but were released early.


Two of the perpetrators were German converts to Islam from Christianity,[6] two were German-Turks. In 2006, all four attended a paramilitary training camp run by the Islamic Jihad Union in Waziristan.[1]

  • Fritz Gelowicz (born 1979) was considered the leader of the plot.[7][8] He was born in Munich and moved to Ulm with his parents and brother at the age of 5. He was raised in an upper middle class family where his father was a solar heating salesman and his mother was a nurse.[9][10] His parents separated when he was 15, and G. remained with his father. He converted to Islam between the ages of 15-18 while attending the Multi-Kultur-Haus in neighboring Neu-Ulm, and used the name Abdullah.[7] The Multi-Kultur-Haus with its radical sermons was at the time one of the main Salafist centers in Germany; it was closed in 2005.[1] Gelowicz was attending college in Ulm, studying to be an engineer.[11] He was married in January 2007, to a German-Turkish woman.
  • Daniel Schneider (born 1986), lived in Saarbrücken. He dropped out of the twelfth grade after only a few weeks. He converted to Islam at the age of 19, and spent time studying the Koran and Arabic in Egypt.[8] Like G., S.'s parents were divorced when he was young and S. had many Turkish friends, who seem to have introduced him to Islam. S. also spent 9 months as a conscript in the German army and trained in munitions. He met G. at the Islamic Jihad Union training camp in Pakistan.
  • Adem Yilmaz (born 1979), was raised in Turkey.[12] He came to Germany with his family in 1993. He has two younger sisters and a younger brother. His family lives in Germany's Hessian area.[8] He holds both German and Turkish citizenships.[1] He met G. and S. in January 2005, when all three were making a pilgrimage to Mecca.
  • Atilla Selek (born 1975) was a supporter of the group. He was born in Germany to Turkish parents and obtained German citizenship in 2005.[13] S. and G. met at the Multi-Kultur-Haus in Neu-Ulm.[1] As A.S. had hidden criminal proceedings against him for breaches against gun regulation from the passport authorities during his application, those authorities removed his citizenship in 2011 on the grounds that it had been fradulently obtained. This rendered him stateless.[13]

Seven lesser figures were also being hunted. Only five are known by name. The other two have been identified by aliases. Four of the ten suspects (including Yilmaz) have been identified as Turkish.[14]


The suspects had been under observation since October 2006, when the NSA had intercepted communications between them and IJU and alerted German authorities.[1] At the end of 2006, Fritz Gelowicz was spotted suspiciously observing a US Air Force base in Hanau.[15] The suspects had rented a vacation house in the remote town of Oberschledorn, where they amassed 700 kg (1,500 lbs) of hydrogen peroxide, and military-grade detonators from Syria.[16]

A 20 July conversation between two suspects mentioned targeting "a disco filled with American sluts," as well as Ramstein Air Base and the Frankfurt airport.[17]

A phone call from northern Pakistan in late August is purported to have set a 15 September deadline for the group's attacks.[17] The group was aware that they were being watched by police, one member even slashing an unmarked police car's tires while stopped at an intersection.[17]

A routine traffic stop by police not involved in the investigation led to the officers mentioning that the drivers were on a federal watchlist, a comment that the suspects overheard (as was recorded by covert listening devices installed by German authorities in their rented car). This led to an unscheduled raid on their cottage on 4 September 2007.[17] The men were preparing to move the chemicals by van when they were arrested outside the home. There was a minor scuffle and one of the men shot a German police officer in the hand before being subdued.[18]

Bombing materials[edit]

The solution containing 35% hydrogen peroxide[19] had been purchased legally.[20] Authorities who were observing the group surreptitiously replaced it with a harmless 3% solution at the end of July 2007.[21] The Pakistani terror camps had reportedly trained their members to make bombs using peroxide as it was easy to procure, and unlikely to rouse suspicion.[22] The hydrogen peroxide was to be concentrated by being heated, and then mixed with flour.[23] It was found later that many of the 26 military detonators the group had purchased would not have worked.[23]

Three used vans had also been purchased in France, and brought into Germany, possibly to be the carriers for the bombs.[2]


Tougher terror legislation was proposed by German Justice Minister Brigitte Zypries. The new laws would make it illegal to train and/or obtain substances for an attack. The proposed penalty would be up to ten years in prison.[24]

G., S., Y., and S. went on trial in Germany on 22 April 2009. The suspects confessed. They were sentenced in March 2010.[25]


  • Fritz Gelowicz received a 12-year prison sentence for membership in a terrorist organisation abroad, conspiracy to murder, conspiracy to cause an explosion, conspiracy to blackmail constitutional organs, and preparation to cause an explosion offence. He was granted early release in August 2016 after having been in jail for nine years.[26]
  • Adem Yilmaz received an 11-year prison sentence for membership in a terrorist organisation abroad, conspiracy to murder, conspiracy to cause an explosion, conspiracy to blackmail constitutional organs, and preparation to cause an explosive offence. He received a shorter sentence since the members of the group had offered confessions on his initiative.
  • A. S. received a 5-year prison sentence for attempted murder and resisting enforcement officers (for the events during his arrest), as well as for membership in a terrorist organisation abroad, conspiracy to murder, conspiracy to cause an explosion, conspiracy to blackmail constitutional organs, and preparation to cause an explosive offence. He was released in 2011 after having served two thirds of his sentence. His citizenship was revoked[26]
  • Daniel Schneider received a 5-year prison sentence for supporting a terrorist organisation abroad and preparation to cause an explosive offence.[25] He was released in July 2011.[13]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Eijkman, Quirine (2014-06-08). "The German Sauerland Terror Plot Reconsidered". Perspectives on Terrorism. 8 (4). ISSN 2334-3745.
  2. ^ a b The Times of India: Terror suspects brought 3 vans into Germany, says official, 8 September 2007
  3. ^ Kulish, Nicholas; Mekhennet, Souad (8 September 2007). "From Fritz to Adbullah: conversion shocks Germans". New York Times. The Age. Retrieved 8 September 2007.
  4. ^ Der Spiegel: Teenager schmuggelte Zünder nach Deutschland, 6 October 2007
  5. ^ "Communications Intercept Led To Bomb-Plot Arrests". Los Angeles Times. TBO. 7 September 2007. Retrieved 8 September 2007.[dead link]
  6. ^ Katrin Bennhold: Letter from Europe: Local terrorism suspects puzzle Germany, International Herald Tribune, 12 September 2007
  7. ^ a b Kulish, Nicholas; Mekhennet, Souad (7 September 2007). "In Plot Suspect, Germany Sees Familiar Face". The New York Times. Retrieved 8 September 2007.
  8. ^ a b c "Die Bombenbauer aus der Provinz". Spiegel Online (in German). 7 September 2007. Retrieved 8 September 2007.
  9. ^ Schofield, Matthew (6 September 2007). "Germany considers monitoring converts to Islam on Internet". McClatchy-Tribune. Houston Chronicle. Archived from the original on 18 September 2007. Retrieved 8 September 2007.
  10. ^ Higgins, Alexander G. (7 September 2007). "Germans Concerned About Muslim Converts". Forbes. Associated Press. Retrieved 8 September 2007.[dead link]
  11. ^ Boyes, Roger (7 September 2007). "German terror suspect 'met 9/11 hijacker'". The Times. London: Times Online. Retrieved 8 September 2007.
  12. ^ Gomez, Edward M. (6 September 2007). "Germany's thwarted bombers: "Not an abstract danger, but a very real threat"". SFGate. Retrieved 8 September 2007.
  13. ^ a b c "Urteil: Helfer der Sauerland-Gruppe ist kein Deutscher mehr". SPIEGEL ONLINE (in German). 21 July 2011.
  14. ^ Dempsey, Judy; Bennhold, Katrin (8 September 2007). "Germany Debates Security Measures". New York Times. Retrieved 8 September 2007.
  15. ^ Die Welt online: "Klarer Auftrag" für Attentate kam aus Pakistan, 7 September 2007
  16. ^ Süddeutsche Zeitung: Spuren führen nach Syrien und Pakistan Archived 10 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine, 8 September 2007
  17. ^ a b c d Erik Kirschbaum: German suspects had deadline for attacks: report, Reuters, 8 September 2007
  18. ^ Purvis, Andrew (2007-09-05). "German Plot Signals al-Qaeda Revival". TIME. Retrieved 2015-01-12.
  19. ^ AP: Militant group claims responsibility for foiled bombing attacks in Germany, The Canadian Press, 12 September 2007 Archived 22 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  20. ^ David McHugh and Ann Cahill: Suspected terror plot thwarted in Germany, Irish Examiner, 6 September 2007
  21. ^ "Sauerland-Gruppe: Terroristen kauften monatelang Wasserstoffperoxid". RuhrNachrichten.de (in German). 12 May 2009. Retrieved 2017-03-21.
  22. ^ The Washington Post: Germany Says It Foiled Bomb Plot, 5 September 2007
  23. ^ a b Introduction to the court's verdict, Oberlandesgericht Düsseldorf, 4 March 2010 (in German)
  24. ^ AP/Geir Moulson: New German Terror Laws Proposed, Time, 19 September 2007
  25. ^ a b "Four jailed over plot to attack U.S. bases". MSNBC. 4 March 2010. Retrieved 12 January 2013.
  26. ^ a b Chan, Sewell (2016-08-17). "German Who Plotted to Bomb U.S. Targets in Europe Gets Out of Prison Early". The New York Times.