COLOGNE, Germany – German police raided a plane in Cologne just before it was taking off Friday and arrested two ethnic Somalis, saying they found a suicide note that claimed the men wanted to fight a holy war and die in a terror attack.
A 23-year-old Somali man and a 24-year-old German man born in Somalia were removed from the plane without incident after the surprise raid at Cologne-Bonn Airport, a spokeswoman for North Rhine-Westphalia state police told The Associated Press.
Quoting unidentified security forces, German media said the two men were heading to Pakistan. Bild, Germany's top-selling newspaper, reported the men had been under observation for months.
Police spokeswoman Katharina Breuer said authorities did not think the men planned to hijack the plane — KLM Flight 1804 to Amsterdam. Airport spokesman Walter Roemer said the pair were not armed.
Click here for photos.
She also would not reveal how authorities knew the men were on board, but said the 6:55 a.m. (0455 GMT) raid took place because of the alleged suicide note. The two men lived in the Cologne area, she added.
German media identified the 24-year-old as Omar D. and the other man as Abdirazak B. but neither police nor the Federal Criminal Office, the German equivalent of the FBI, would confirm either of the names or their ultimate destination.
The Fokker 50 jet was at its "point of departure" when police grabbed the two suspects, KLM spokeswoman Elfrieke van Galen said, adding that the 46 remaining passengers then had to leave the plane and identify their bags.
The plane took off an hour later and landed at Schipol airport in the Netherlands without further incident. No other flights at Cologne airport were affected.
Still, some people at the airport were rattled by the arrests.
"I saw a couple of policemen running out pretty quickly," said Antonietta Puzio, an airport cafe worker. "One always thinks something like this is so far away, and then something happens right by where you work."
Both Germany and the Netherlands are possible transit points or targets for terrorists.
The Dutch anti-terror chief warned earlier this month that the Netherlands remains a top target for Islamic terrorists because of publicity surrounding an anti-Islam film, "Fitna," by lawmaker Geert Wilders.
"Fitna" sets Quranic texts against a background of violent images, which the report said "is considered a major insult and provocation" by terrorist groups. The country's terrorist threat has been rated as "substantial" since the film's launch in March.
Frank Wallenta, a spokesman for federal prosecutors in Germany, said the arrests in Cologne were not related to two other men linked this week to terrorist suspects.
On Thursday, prosecutors said Eric Breininger, 21, and Houssain Al Malla, 23 could be headed to Germany after leaving a terrorist training camp along the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. The men are believed linked to the group involved in a foiled 2007 plot to attack American targets in Germany.
Despite Friday's arrests, Interior Ministry spokeswoman Daniela-Alexandra Pietsch said the threat level in Germany had not changed. Germany is still in the "crosshairs of terrorism" but there are no indications that any specific attacks are planned, she said.