April 27 (UPI) — A German army officer who officials said had a “xenophobic background” attempted to take advantage of the country’s lax immigration processing to pose as a Syrian refugee and carry out a terrorist attack.
Prosecutors have not identified the suspect, who is a 28-year-old lieutenant in the German army.
A second unidentified man, a 24-year-old college student, who was believed to be acting as an accomplice, was also arrested following raids in Germany, France and Austria connected to the case. Police said they recovered a stash of weapons and explosives at the second man’s home.
Despite speaking no Arabic, the officer used a fake name and registered as a Syrian refugee in 2016. He was drawing the monthly stipend the German government has been paying to many of the more than 1 million such people who poured into the country since 2015.
Prosecutors said they “were not able to say” why the suspect’s obvious lack of Middle Eastern origin failed to raise any red flags in his refugee application process, but he had been granted asylum and assigned refugee housing in Bavaria.
The man first aroused suspicion in January when he was seen stashing a handgun inside a bathroom in the Vienna airport. Upon retrieving the weapon in February, he was taken into custody and questioned by police, but let go while the investigation continued.
Subsequently, prosecutors said, he was found to be living a “double life” as a member of the German army during the day, but also posing as a Syrian refugee while plotting an unspecified attack. Police are investigating whether the man’s posing as a Syrian refugee was an attempt to blame the attack on refugees, or whether he was planning to target refugees themselves.
“This knowledge, as well as anecdotal evidence indicating the soldier had a xenophobic background, lead to the suspicion that the defendant had planned to carry out a violent criminal act, an attack, with the weapon hidden in Vienna airport,” prosecutors said.