Monday, November 20, 2006

Terrorists Planned Plane Bombing in Germany

German prosecutors have launched an investigation into a group that is thought to have started planning a terrorist attack on a German passenger plane last summer.

The Federal Prosecutor's Office in Karlsruhe said in a statement that suspects had already convinced an airport employee with security access to smuggle a suitcase full of explosives onto a passenger plane.

Prosecutors have questioned six suspects about the bomb plot.

"With the exception of one suspect who is in prison for another offence, the other suspects were released on Saturday," the statement said.

Police also searched nine houses in the German states of Rhineland-Palatinate and Hesse over the weekend.

Suspected of belonging to terrorist organization

According to the prosecutor's office, the suspects had made contact several times with members of an unknown group without coming to an agreement on the size of the fee for smuggling the suitcase.

The prosecutor's office gave no details about the nationality of the suspects, nor would they reveal the planned timing of the attack.

In summer, Germany hosted the soccer World Cup, during which police were on high alert because of fears of terrorist attacks.

The German government on Monday said it would not increase its security warning in light of the new investigation.

"We always have to count on there being groups of people who are considering real plans," an interior ministry spokesperson said in Berlin.

DW staff (kh)

Deutsche Welle 11/2006

Former Student Shoots Himself After Storming High School

A scare at a northwestern German high school came ended Monday morning when the masked teen apparently shot himself.

The 18-year-old former student opened fire at the high school he attended in the town of Emsdetten, Germany on Monday, wounding at least nine people before apparently killing himself.

A school staff member and at least two students were in serious condition, said Ingo Wolf, interior minister of the state of North Rhine Westphalia, where the shooting occurred.

The victims reportedly suffered from gunshot wounds, though the police would not comment on the exact nature of their injuries.

During the standoff, most pupils at the school ran to safety in a neighboring building and field, while others were evacuated after police had taken control of the situation.

"All the children are safe," the spokesman told the AFP news agency.

Police had to delay an inspection of the gunman's body because it appeared to be laden with explosives, officials said.

The gunman left a message on the Internet that suggested the attack was retaliation for being mocked at the school in the town near the Dutch border.

Several students were grazed by bullets, but it remained unclear if the man had taken any hostages during the two-hour incident, which began when the gunman fired his pistol in the school at about 9:30 a.m. CET and later set off smoke bombs.

Website indicated gunman's despair

Police said Web pages containing photos of the teenager holding weapons that appeared to be his own, including a submachine gun.

Criticizing his former high school, the Geschwister Scholl School (GSS), the youth wrote, "The only thing I was properly taught at GSS was that I'm a loser."

The message also contained the words, "I hate people," and ended with the words, "I'm outta here."

Teachers in Emsdetten said the attacker had been a loner who often dressed completely in black and wore a long, black trench coat.

A prosecutor in the nearby city of Münster said the youth appeared to have shot himself, but how he died could only be proved by an autopsy. Police said they had not shot him.

A teacher told the TV broadcaster WDR the attacker was not a dropout but had graduated from the Geschwister Scholl School.

DW staff / DPA (kjb)

Deutsche Welle 11/2006

Siemens Under Fire in Corruption Scandal

A dozen former and current Siemens employees are being investigated for using bribes and embezzling millions in order to win company contracts.

A massive corruption scandal at the fixed line telecoms unit of the Munich-based engineering and electronics giant Siemens could involve more than 100 million euros ($128 million), according to reports in German weekly Focus magazine over the weekend.

The magazine said in its online edition that investigators had found 40 million euros in the bank account of a Siemens executive in Greece and another 40 million euros in Austria. Even the offices of Siemens chief executive Klaus Kleinfeld have been searched, according to newspaper reports.

Slush fund to bribe contractors

Prosecutors are investigating whether the money was part of a slush fund used to bribe overseas contractors to place orders, including a contract for security systems at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.

A former Siemens board member and four other employees were taken into custody following police raids of company headquarters, more than 30 other offices, and in private homes on Wednesday.

The five are among a dozen people suspected of embezzling 20 million euros, according to senior prosecutor Christian Schmidt-Sommerfeld. According to reports in Spiegel Online, two top executives, Michael Kutschenreuter and Andy Mattes, who were board members at Siemens COM, the fixed-line communications division, are among those being investigated.

Raid involved hundreds of inspectors

The raids involved about 270 tax inspectors, police officers and investigating magistrates who searched sites and seized documents at company headquarters as well as in the German city of Erlangen and offices in Switzerland.

The dozen suspects are being investigated for using company money to pay bribes in order to win contracts, channeling cash mainly through Swiss bank accounts, and transferring the embezzled funds to offshore firms via dummy companies.

The German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung reported on Monday that a Siemens spokesperson confirmed the company had known about the accusations for almost a year and had launched its own probe into the corruption scandal.

Siemens appointing ombudsman

On Thursday, Siemens said that it was revising its internal auditing procedures as a result of the affair and was also creating the position of a full-time ombudsman to whom its employees could report any suspected irregularities in the future.

The investigation adds to a difficult period for Siemen, which has been under fire for its perceived role in the collapse of German mobile phone maker BenQ, and is the latest in a series of corruption scandals that have plagued major German businesses recently.

Former Volkswagen board member Peter Hartz, who advised former chancellor Gerhard Schröder over the labor reform package that bears his name, was indicted just last week for sanctioning illegal bonuses paid out to his mistress and former heads of VW's workers' council.

DW staff/dpa/AFP (df)

Deutsche Welle 11/2006