By Robert Windrem
NBC News investigative producer for special projects
The arrests of three suspected terrorists Friday in Germany are significant, according to U.S. officials, who say at least one member of the trio was trained by al-Qaida – not merely inspired by the terrorist organization.
The three men arrested in and around Duesseldorf, all German nationals, had been under surveillance for some time, and that U.S. intelligence cooperated with German authorities in the investigation, said one U.S. official, who spoke with NBC News on condition of anonymity. The official added that the men had already put together "precursor chemicals" for a terror attack and were planning a "test run" on Friday morning. Although the test was postponed, German authorities decided to move in and arrest them, the official said.
U.S. officials described the planned target as "localized" and related to "public transportation, trains or buses." The official would not comment when asked if U.S. servicemen might have been targeted. Public transportation has become a primary target of al-Qaida and other terrorist groups in the years since the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks in the United States, with more than 800 people killed around the world, from London to Mumbai to Moscow, in the past five years.
Neither U.S. nor German authorities would identify the suspects, but German security officials said all three were of Moroccan origin.