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German soldier plotted terror attack disguised as Syria refugee

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas speaks during a joint press conference held with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres (not seen) after a meeting in Berlin, Germany, on December 17, 2020 [Michael Sohn/Pool/Anadolu Agency]
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas in Berlin, Germany, on December 17, 2020 [Michael Sohn/Pool/Anadolu Agency]

A German officer stands accused of plotting a terrorist attack on high-ranking politicians while posing as a Syrian refugee, in efforts to incriminate those who have sought asylum in Germany and in Europe.

On trial in the city of Frankfurt yesterday, prosecutors claimed that the 32-year-old lieutenant Franco Albrecht smuggled weapons and explosives from the German military prior to his arrest in 2017, with plans to carry out "a serious act of violence that endangers the state."

The attacks he was allegedly planning included one on the then-Justice Minister and now Foreign Minister Heiko Maas. Those plans were then prevented from taking place when he was arrested in 2017 at Vienna's International Airport, while attempting to retrieve a Nazi-era pistol that he hid in a toilet there.

Being German on his mother's side and Italian on his father's side, he also posed as a Syrian refugee trying to gain residence in the country in an effort to "redirect suspicion onto asylum seekers in Germany in the subsequent investigations" of the attacks.

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His disguise turned out to be successful, as despite speaking no Arabic, he was provided a space in a shelter and welfare benefits of €409 ($499) per month. He was then reportedly able to return to his army barracks in the French border town of Illkirch without raising any suspicions of his double identity, which was only discovered upon his arrest when his fingerprints matched both identities.

Albrecht's plans, according to the prosecutors, were a result of his "right-wing extremist views", which consist of hatred towards Jews and a belief that taking in asylum seekers is a form of genocide. Those views are reportedly evidenced by materials he possessed such as Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf.

The officer's lawyer denied the attack plans and his extremism, however, claiming that he only posed as a refugee "in order to highlight security gaps in the [immigration] system." He also claimed that the weapons he smuggled were "to protect his family in case of an emergency."

With his trial set to last until August, Albrecht could face up to ten years imprisonment if convicted.

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