Euro 2024 terror fears: Iraqi national 'plotting Isis attack' arrested mere MINUTES from next Scotland match venue after German police raid

Scotland fans/Police/MHPArena

The arrest in Esslingen fell just 10 minutes' drive from the MHPArena where Scotland will face off against Hungary on Sunday

Wikimedia Commons/Getty/PA
James Saunders

By James Saunders


Published: 20/06/2024

- 12:51

Updated: 20/06/2024

- 14:08

German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser said the arrest was proof of just how strongly authorities were cracking down on Islamist security concerns as the Euros roll on

An Iraqi national suspected of plotting to carry out attacks as an "Isis sleeper agent" has been arrested just a few minutes away from Scotland's next football match venue in Stuttgart.

In a move which marks a continuation of a crime crackdown from German authorities as Euro 2024 rolls on, police swooped on an address in nearby Esslingen where they arrested and detained "Mahmoud A" - whose full name cannot be revealed under German reporting restrictions.


Mahmoud, who arrived in Germany in October 2022, is suspected to be a member of, and to have fought for, Isis in Iraq after joining the infamous terror group in 2016 - just a year after militant attackers targeted a Germany-France football match in Paris.

In a joint raid by officers from national, state and local police, cops detained the Iraqi national and brought him before a judge from Germany's Federal Court of Justice, who ordered he be remanded in custody.

German police/Scotland fans

Three tiers of German police swept on an address just minutes away from Scotland's final group stage match venue

Getty/PA

Reacting to the arrest, German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser said it provided proof of just how strongly authorities were cracking down on Islamist security concerns.

Faeser added: "Our security authorities are extremely vigilant, follow every lead and take tough action to protect our country against Islamist threats."

This isn't the only terror-related arrest German police have made in the state of Baden-Württemberg in recent weeks; back in April, a 35-year-old Syrian man was arrested in the southern town of Isny im Allgäu.

According to the Stuttgart Public Prosecutor's Office, the man was suspected to also have fought for Isis - this time, in Syria - between 2012 and 2015, before fleeing to Germany via Turkey then Greece.

MORE EUROS WORRIES:

Officials had talked up state police's preparedness after training exercises in Stuttgart, where Scotland play on Sunday

Wikimedia Commons/Polizei Baden-Württemberg

Fears had been raised ahead of the tournament that terrorist groups could look to target football matches - five of which are slated to take place in Stuttgart - with Nancy Faeser warning of a "new level" of danger in the wake of the Crocus City Hall attacks in Moscow.

And, just a couple of weeks before the Euros began, Baden-Württemberg was in the news again after an alleged Islamist extremist from Afghanistan stabbed hard-right campaigners and members of the public, and killed a police officer in a town square in Mannheim.

Ahead of the championship, Olivier Guitta, a geopolitical risk, terrorism and security expert, told the Athletic the main threat at the tournament was from jihadist terrorists.

Guitta said: "More than anything, we have seen in the past that the jihadists always try to hit a target where they haven’t been successful in the past, so we know at the top of their list are football stadiums.

Mannheim attacker

Baden-Württemberg was in the news again after an alleged Islamist extremist from Afghanistan killed a police officer in Mannheim

BPE via Reuters

"There are the Euros, but also the Olympics. We think they are going to try to target one of the two. The threat of a terror attack at the Euros is at its highest ever."

But state officials were bullish on their preparedness last month; Deputy Minister-President of Baden-Württemberg Thomas Strobl said in May: "Being able to host the European Championship is a great challenge. It gives us the chance to prove once again how capable our police are."

"Our emergency and rescue forces are well prepared and optimally coordinated so that everything works smoothly... We are looking forward to the home game for Baden-Württemberg - because just like in 2006, Stuttgart is much nicer than Berlin!"

The arrest in Esslingen fell just 10 minutes' drive from the MHPArena, known as the Stuttgart Arena for sponsorship reasons throughout Euro 2024 - where Scotland will face off against Hungary on Sunday at 8pm UK time for a potential berth in the last 16 of the competition.

Guitta's comments about the Olympics follow the news that its Paris opening ceremony, slated to take place on the city's River Seine, has already been scaled back for security reasons.

A senior French interior ministry official said French President Emmanuel Macron had demanded halving the number of spectators from 600,000 following crowd control and security concerns, according to Politico.

The official said the "main threat" to the Games was "Islamist terrorism" - but conceded French intelligence had not yet identified specific plots, and groups like Isis and Al-Qaeda did not have the financial capacity to carry out attacks in France.

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