COPENHAGEN – Fourteen people have been arrested in Denmark and Germany on suspicion of preparing one or several attacks in the two countries, Danish police said Friday, adding that the discovery of an Islamic State group flag could indicate the suspects “have a connection or sympathy with the terror organization.”
Flemming Drejer, operative head of Denmark’s Security and Intelligence Service, said the findings were “worrying” but “it is our assessment that there was no imminent danger.”
Dreyer said the first seven individuals who were arrested in Denmark had acquired weapons and “we found things that can be used to make a bomb.” He said police found shotguns and a rifle with a scope, as well as the flag, but that he could not give further details about the Denmark case or its links to Germany.
“We are now in the initial phase of the investigation and we need to keep our cards close to the chest,” Dreyer said.
All but one of the 14 arrests took place in Denmark. Three of the suspects are Syrian nationals, ages 33, 36 and 40, who were arrested last weekend, according to German officials.
Danish authorities announced eight arrests on Thursday, and police said another six people were detained Friday.
The detention hearings in Denmark were held behind so-called double-closed doors, meaning the case is shrouded in secrecy and few details are made public. Officials did not identify the suspects.
Denmark's security service, known by its Danish acronym PET, said Thursday that the first seven people arrested in Denmark were suspected “of having acquired ingredients and components for the manufacture of explosives, as well as weapons, or having participated in this.”
They are suspected of “having planned one or more terrorist attacks or participated in attempted terrorism.”
Earlier, German authorities had announced the first three arrests — two in Denmark and one in Germany. They said the suspects were alleged to have purchased several kilograms (pounds) of chemicals in January that could be used to manufacture explosives.
A search of a residence in the German city of Dessau-Rosslau, southwest of Berlin, turned up 10 kilograms (22 pounds) of black powder and fuses, the German prosecutor said. More chemicals were seized in Denmark.
Germany’s dpa news agency reported that the three were brothers, and that two had entered Germany for the first time in 1998 and received refugee status later. The chemicals they are alleged to have obtained came from a source in Poland, were delivered to Dessau-Rosslau, and then brought to Denmark, dpa reported.
Justice Minister Nick Haekkerup said late Thursday on Twitter that ”the case shows that the terrorist threat against Denmark remains serious.”
The Scandinavian country of 6 million has been worried about a possible extremist attack since September 2005, when a Danish newspaper published 12 cartoons showing the Prophet Muhammad.
The cartoons caused outrage and protests in the Muslim world, where any depiction of Muhammad generally is considered blasphemous. The newspaper said it had wanted to test whether cartoonists would apply self-censorship when asked to portray Muhammad. No Danish laws were violated with the cartoons’ publication.
This story has been corrected to show Denmark has a population of about 6 million, not 10 million.
David Rising in Berlin contributed to this report.