German police discovered 1.5 kg of extremely dangerous explosives in a flat in Chemnitz before detaining 22-year-old Jaber al-Bakr in Leipzig on Sunday, ending a manhunt that lasted almost two days, the German general prosecutor said. A specific target was as yet unknown, he said.
"His approach and behavior suggest an IS context," said Joerg Michaelis, the president of the Saxony crime office, referring to the Islamic State, or ISIS.
Al-Bakr was captured after two other Syrian men tied him up in their apartment in Leipzig and alerted police. Leipzig is about 100 kilometers (60 miles) from Chemnitz.
Al-Bakr had met the men at Leipzig's train station on Saturday, Michaelis said, and asked if he could stay with them. The men took in the stranger but realized on Saturday night through social media that he was wanted by police. They tied al-Bakr to their sofa and alerted the police via social media, asking them to come detain him.
For security reasons, police would not identity the two men who turned in al-Bakr.
"Our thanks and our recognition go out to the (men) from Syria who informed the police about the suspect's whereabouts," said Ulrike Demmer, a spokesman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Angela Merkel, Germany's chancellor praised the initiative of the two Syrians for informing the police of al-Bakr's whereabouts.
Al-Bakr had taken concrete steps earlier this month to plan the attack and was possibly planning to use an explosive vest. authorities said.
Police on Saturday said they had found a highly explosive mix of substances more dangerous than TNT in a raid on what appears to be al-Bakr's apartment in Chemnitz. They said the mix could cause significant damage in small amounts.
The material found was likely TATP, or acetone peroxide, which was used in recent terror attacks in Brussels and Paris, Michaelis said.
Interior Minister Tomas De Maziere released a statement Monday saying: "The preparations in Chemnitz are similar from everything that we now know to the preparations for the attacks in Paris and Brussels."
Following the raid, authorities began searching for al-Bakr, who is from the Damascus area.
"Tired but overjoyed: we captured the terror suspect last night in Leipzig," Saxony police announced on Twitter on Monday.
Police said the explosive substance could not be easily transported, so they dug several holes and safely detonated it.
Merkel under pressure on refugees
Markus Ulbig, Saxony State interior minister, said that al-Bakr had come to Germany as an asylum-seeker in February 2015. A year later, he formally asked for asylum, which was granted in June this year.
A second detained suspect, identified only as Khalil A., is a 33-year-old who came to Germany in November 2015 and was recognized as a refugee in March this year.
Two other people were arrested at the city's train station Saturday, police said, and their luggage was being searched. The station was temporarily cordoned off, police said. Another person was arrested in the city center and police said they believed that person was in contact with al-Bakr. It's not clear if one of these three is the second suspect, Khalil A.
The tip about the apartment came from the German interior intelligence services, authorities said. Police carried out a controlled explosion to gain access to the apartment.
Chemnitz is about 40 miles from the city of Dresden, where security was stepped up last month following two bomb attacks -- one on a mosque and another on a conference center. Two homemade devices were involved in those attacks, police said. No one was injured.
German Chancellor Merkel has come under intense political pressure
for her open-door policy on refugees
. German officials said the country welcomed more than 1 million refugees in 2015 alone, many of them Syrians fleeing the war in their country.
There have been several low-impact attacks in Germany this year carried out by refugees, prompting Merkel's administration to tighten security measures.