German Officials Detain a Fifth Suspect in Connection With a Threat to Attack Cologne Cathedral

Thomas Banneyer/dpa via AP
Before the end-of-year pontifical mass in Cologne Cathedral with Cardinal Woelki, the area around the cathedral is heavily guarded by police with machine guns, Sunday, Dec. 31, 2023.

BERLIN (AP) — German authorities said Monday they detained another suspect in connection with an alleged threat of an attack on the world-famous Cologne Cathedral over the holidays, bringing the overall number of people detained in connection with the alleged plot to five.

The latest suspect, a 41-year-old German-Turkish man, was detained Sunday night in the western city of Bochum in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia.

Police detained three people on Sunday morning and one man last week. All of the detained suspects allegedly belong to a larger Islamic extremist network that included people across Germany and in other European countries, according to Cologne police chief Johannes Hermanns, German news agency dpa reported.

The other four suspects were detained in different cities across North Rhine-Westphalia. The one who was detained last week was identified as a 30-year-old Tajik man. No details were given for the three who were detained Sunday morning.

The attack was supposed to have been carried out on New Year’s Eve with a car loaded with explosives, local media reported.

Cologne police said in a Sunday news conference that the cathedral’s underground parking garage had been searched and that explosives detection dogs had been deployed, but nothing was found. The entrance and exit of the underground garage had also been checked for suspicious activity.

North Rhine-Westphalia’s Interior Minister Herbert Reul on Sunday called the latest detentions a “success, for which I would like to thank the investigators.”

Islamic extremists have always been active, but they are currently more active than usual and the Catholic cathedral was a prime target for them, Reul said, according to dpa. “The police always try to be a few steps ahead,” he added.

Police had received information about a planned militant attack on Cologne Cathedral shortly before Christmas.

The city’s world-famous cathedral has been under high protection for a week and the threat led to the closure of the house of worship for tourists since Christmas Eve.