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German prosecutors charge couple in ricin plot

Published
FILE - In this June 15, 2018 file photo a German firefighter carrying a barrel out of the residential complex Osloerstrasse 3 in the Chorweiler neighbourhood of Cologne, Germany. Federal prosecutors say they have filed charges against a Tunisian suspect and his German wife who are accused of producing biological weapons for an attack in Germany. (Oliver Berg/dpa via AP)

BERLIN (AP) — Federal prosecutors on Thursday charged a 30-year-old Tunisian and his 43-year-old German wife with preparing a severe act of violence over a plot to use the toxin ricin to carry out a biological attack in Germany.

Sief Allah H. and Yasmin H., whose full names were withheld in line with local privacy rules, were followers of the ideology of the Islamic State extremist group, prosecutors said in a statement. They bought thousands of castor beans and developed the toxin ricin to carry out an attack on a crowded public place in Germany. They also turned fireworks into explosives.

The husband also tried unsuccessfully to travel to Syria twice in 2017 to join the IS group as a fighter. His wife helped him by buying plane tickets, booking accommodation and sending him money, the statement said.

Sief Allah H. was arrested in June 2018 in the couple's Cologne apartment, where investigators found about 3,150 castor bean seeds and 84.3 milligrams of ricin along with bomb-making components. His wife was arrested a month later.

The seeds of the castor bean plant are naturally poisonous and can be used to create ricin. The substance kills the body's cells by preventing them from creating protein. A few milligrams are enough to kill an adult if it's eaten, injected or inhaled. Early symptoms include chest pain, breathing difficulties and coughing.

The husband is also charged with two further cases of preparing severe acts of violence, while his wife is accused of having supported him in both cases. Sief Allah H. is also charged with trying to join a foreign terrorist group.

In early 2018, the man also published IS propaganda material online about attacks and suicide bombings, the statement said.

Authorities have said that German security agencies were first warned about the man by foreign intelligence agencies, but the information provided wasn't conclusive enough to act upon. A phone-in tip from the public then helped them confirm their suspicions.

FILE - In this June 15, 2018 file photo a German police officer in protective gear walks down stairs in an apartment building at Osloerstrasse 3, in Cologne, Germany. Federal prosecutors say they have filed charges against a Tunisian suspect and his German wife who are accused of producing biological weapons for an attack in Germany. (Henning Kaiser/dpa via AP)
FILE - In this June 15, 2018 file photo a German firefighter carrying a barrel out of the residential complex Osloerstrasse 3 in the Chorweiler neighbourhood of Cologne, Germany. Federal prosecutors say they have filed charges against a Tunisian suspect and his German wife who are accused of producing biological weapons for an attack in Germany. (Oliver Berg/dpa via AP)
FILE - In this June 15, 2018 file photo a German firefighter carrying a barrel out of the residential complex Osloerstrasse 3 in the Chorweiler neighbourhood of Cologne, Germany. Federal prosecutors say they have filed charges against a Tunisian suspect and his German wife who are accused of producing biological weapons for an attack in Germany. (Oliver Berg/dpa via AP)
FILE - In this June 15, 2018 file photo a German police officer in protective gear walks down stairs in an apartment building at Osloerstrasse 3, in Cologne, Germany. Federal prosecutors say they have filed charges against a Tunisian suspect and his German wife who are accused of producing biological weapons for an attack in Germany. (Henning Kaiser/dpa via AP)
FILE - In this June 15, 2018 file photo a German police officer in protective gear walks down stairs in an apartment building at Osloerstrasse 3, in Cologne, Germany. Federal prosecutors say they have filed charges against a Tunisian suspect and his German wife who are accused of producing biological weapons for an attack in Germany. (Henning Kaiser/dpa via AP)