Germany aghast after Syrian bomb suspect kills himself in jail


Politicians in Germany demanded answers from Saxony state officials after a Syrian man suspected of plotting to bomb attack in a Berlin airport strangled himself to death with his t-shirt in jail.

The suicide occurred while he was alone for 15 minutes, between 7:30 and 7:45 p.m. Wednesday, officials said. "I'm unbelievably shocked and absolutely speechless that something like this could have happened".

The chief of the detention centre, Rolf Jacob, said Albakr was questioned by a psychologist at the centre and determined not to be at serious risk of committing suicide.

Still, he said it would have been against German law to preventatively put him into a special cell designed for a prisoner assessed as an "acute, clearly visible suicide risk".

He said the suspect was checked on every 15 minutes and given trousers without a belt as a precaution.

In an interview with public broadcaster ZDF, German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere conceded that Albakr's Jaber's death "has made the investigation more hard".

He also had destroyed both a lighting fixture and an electrical outlet in his cell - actions that were believed to be vandalism and "not interpreted as a suicide attempt", Jacob said.

Intelligence officials said police had found more than two pounds of explosives in an apartment where they had aimed to arrest Albakr last week before he managed to escape.

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They also said he was granted asylum after coming to Germany previous year, and had been under surveillance by German domestic intelligence since last month. He nevertheless was able to elude police on the scene and flee the city.

The hunt ended after three Syrian refugees who realized al-Bakr was being sought by police subdued him at their apartment and turned him in. Inside the apartment police found highly volatile explosives and a homemade bomb vest.

But they have offered little detail on why a security check on him previous year did not turn up anything suspicious or how he was able to produce the powerful bomb-making materials discovered in his apartment. "It's not clear when he was radicalized".

German media have reported that after his initial arrival, Albakr later returned to Syria through Turkey and then came back to Germany.

A spokesman for Germany's lawyer general - who handles terrorism-related cases - said prosecutors would continue to investigate the case.

So far investigators have said they believe al-Bakr had links to the Islamic State group and may have been planning to attack one of Berlin's airports.

The three Syrians who captured the suspect had been granted asylum and their "behaviour deserves praise and recognition", Mr de Maiziere said.