In mid-April 2020, German authorities detained four Tajik nationals over an Islamic State-linked terror terrorist conspiracy to attack a variety of targets including U.S. and NATO military facilities and personnel stationed in the country. According to the Federal Public Prosecutor’s Office, the arrested men were members of a terrorist cell that was in regular contact with two senior Islamic State militants—one of whom was based in Syria and the other in Afghanistan—from whom they received instructions. Allegedly, the cell members initially considered an attack in Tajikistan, but ultimately switched their focus to Germany after being convinced by their Islamic State contact and mentor in Syria, an operative known as “Abu Fatima,” to “God willing, perform the jihad in the area where you are!”
It is alleged Abu Fatima issued this order to the ringleader of the cell through a voice message sent through the messaging app Telegram before the ringleader was arrested in Germany in March 2019. Reportedly, Islamic State “leadership” rejected a plan by the cell members to travel to Syria, and urged them to fight in Europe, describing it as a “place of evil.”
While the attacks were not planned for the immediate future, at the time of their arrest, the cell members had already allegedly ordered (but not yet received) bomb parts online, and were stocking up on firearms, precursor chemicals, and ammunition. Their alleged plan was to attack the U.S. air base in Spangdahlem and the NATO AWACS air base near Geilenkirchen, possibly with remote-controlled drones or paragliders armed with explosives. The wife of one suspect had reportedly called a flight school in Bitburg, a town in Rhineland-Palatinate, which is about 12 kilometers away from the Geilenkirchen air base, and expressed her interest in attending paragliding courses. The plot against the air bases was just one of several attacks the group was plotting. As outlined below, the other plots reportedly included setting off a gas explosion in a specially rented residential apartment and two separate murder-for-hire operations in Albania and Germany.