German prosecutors alleged the suspects planned car bomb attacks on sites such as pubs, discos and airports, and considered targets in cities, including Frankfurt, Dortmund, Dusseldorf, Cologne, Stuttgart, Munich and Ramstein Ğ where the U.S. military has a large airbase.
They said the plotters hoped to kill Americans in the attacks, which were to be carried out before an October 2007 vote by the German parliament on extending German troops' stay in Afghanistan.
The four suspects Ğ aged 30 and under Ğ faced charges including membership in a terrorist organization and conspiracy to commit murder. German authorities arrested three of the men, alleged ringleader Fritz Gelowicz, Daniel Schneider and Adem Yılmaz, at a rented cottage in central Germany on Sept. 4, 2007. Turkey picked up the fourth, Attila Selek, in Turkey in November 2007 and later extradited to Germany.
The suspects were accused of being members of the radical Islamic Jihad Union, an offshoot of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. According to the U.S. State Department, the Islamic Jihad Union was responsible for coordinated bombings outside the U.S. and Israeli embassies in July 2004 in the Uzbek capital, Tashkent. Members have been trained in explosives by al-Qaida instructors, and the group has ties to Osama bin Laden and fugitive Taliban leader Mullah Omar, according to the State Department.
The German cell had stockpiled 730 kilograms of highly concentrated hydrogen peroxide, purchased from a chemical supplier, and could have mixed the peroxide with other substances to make explosives equivalent to 550 kilograms of dynamite, German officials said.
But German authorities Ğ acting partly on intelligence from the United States Ğ had been watching them and covertly replaced all of the hydrogen peroxide with a diluted substitute that could not have been used to produce a bomb.
Prosecutors maintain that during Schneider's arrest, the suspect grabbed a police officer's handgun and managed to squeeze off a shot. The officer was uninjured, but Schneider faced an additional charge of attempted murder, which carries a possible sentence of life in prison.
The other charges together carried a 10-year maximum. The trial at the Dusseldorf state court was scheduled to last at least until the end of August.