Germany Investigates if Boy, 12, Planted Bomb at Christmas Market
By MELISSA EDDY
DEC. 16, 2016
BERLIN — The authorities are investigating whether a 12-year-old boy made a bomb and planted it at a traditional Christmas market in his hometown in southwestern Germany.
News of the bomb plot was reported on Friday by Focus, a newsmagazine, and quickly dominated airwaves and social media, raising fresh concerns over the potential threats from young people lured by Islamist extremists and radicalized using technology like cellphones. Just this year, three attacks in Germany have been carried out by young people who had claimed to be motivated by the Islamic State; two of the attackers died, and they injured several people but did not kill any.
The boy, identified only as an Iraqi-German of Ludwigshafen, has been placed under the protection of local youth services, officials said on Friday.
German law does not allow minors under the age of 14 to be charged with crimes, which would leave investigators to widen their focus on the boy’s friends, family and acquaintances, while seeking to protect the boy. A spokesman for German federal prosecutors declined on Friday to provide any details about the case, other than to confirm discovery of the device.
“We are investigating a nail bomb that was found in Ludwigshafen,” said the spokesman, Stefan Biehl.
Eva Lohse, the mayor of Ludwigshafen, a small city in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate, said that city representatives met on Friday with state security officials to discuss the case.
“The 12-year-old who is accused of plotting a bomb attack in Ludwigshafen is in a secure place, so that he does not pose any danger,” the mayor said, declining to comment further.
On Dec. 5, police in Ludwigshafen evacuated the area around the Rathaus-Center complex, which houses shops and the city hall, after an apparent explosive device was found nearby. The next day, the police reported that “a 12-year-old German-Iraqi had placed a glass with pyrotechnical substances in a black bag into a garbage can” near the center. But the incident largely escaped public notice, until the magazine report came out.
According to the state’s criminal police, the device included materials gleaned from fireworks and sparklers. Police determined that “the mixture was flammable, but not capable of exploding.”
The device found on Dec. 5 was the second one planted by the boy, the local public broadcaster SWR reported, citing unnamed security sources. A similar device was found at the city’s Christmas market on Nov. 26, the station reported, adding that nails had been attached to the exterior of the devices.
According to SWR, the boy was thought to have received instructions from members of the Islamic State about how to build the device via Telegram, a messenger app.
The station’s report could not be independently confirmed. But if it is accurate, the case would fit into a pattern of attacks in Germany linked to the group, which is also known as ISIS, ISIL or Daesh.
In February, a 15-year-old girl stabbed a policeman in Hanover, saying she was acting in the name of the Islamic State. In July, a 17-year-old believed to have been an Afghan refugee, which has not been confirmed, attacked passengers on a train with an ax, injuring five people before the police fatally shot him. The same month, a 27-year-old Syrian man detonated a backpack bomb in Ansbach, killing himself and injuring 15. Both young men had pledged loyalty to ISIS.
Peter Neumann, a professor at King’s College London and the director of the International Center for the Study of Radicalization, warned that such “remote-controlled” attacks posed a problem for authorities, but were in keeping with how the Islamic State operates.
“The very young age of the alleged attacker is unusual, but not totally surprising,” Mr. Neumann wrote on Twitter. “It has to do with the low level of requirements of Islamic State: slogans instead of complicated ideologies, computer games and gangster motives, images of strength and power