COPENHAGEN, Denmark – Two Danish brothers, including one alleged to have received terror training in his native Somalia, have been arrested on suspicion of plotting an attack, Denmark's security service said Tuesday.
The men, aged 18 and 23, were suspected of "being in the process of preparing an act of terror" in Denmark or abroad after being overheard talking about methods, targets and different types of weapons, the Danish Security and Intelligence Service said.
Authorities "cannot say with certainty that a terrorist act was imminent, but we felt that it was necessary to intervene and arrest them at this time to be able to thwart the plans," said Jakob Scharf, head of the agency, which is known by its Danish acronym PET.
The brothers were arrested late Monday, one in the western city of Aarhus and the other as he arrived by plane at Copenhagen's international airport, Scharf said. PET did not say where the brother picked up at the airport had been traveling from.
The suspects are "Danish citizens of Somali origin" who have lived in Denmark for 16 years, PET said. The men cannot be named under a court ban.
The 23-year-old had been at a training camp in Somalia run by the Islamist militant group al-Shabab, which has links to al-Qaida, from Jan. 18 to Feb. 21, prosecutor Lone Damgaard said at a custody hearing.
The 23-year-old was charged with receiving training with the aim of committing an act of terror. He is believed to be the first known terror suspect in Denmark to have received such training at a camp. PET's former operations chief, Hans Joergen Bonnichsen, said previous suspects had been "kitchen-table terrorists" with no experience or training.
The charges were read out at the Aarhus City Court behind closed doors, as is customary in terror cases because of an ongoing investigation. Both men, who were remanded in custody for four weeks, pleaded innocence.
PET said the arrests came after a long investigation and prevented a concrete act of terror, but that they will not require changing the ranking of the ongoing terror threat in Denmark, which remains "serious."
The Scandinavian country has been in the crosshairs of Islamist terror groups after the publication of newspaper cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad in 2005, an act that offended many Muslims.
"To me there is no doubt that the latest arrests are rooted in the Muhammad cartoons," Bonnichsen said.
According to Scharf, between 25 and 40 people "with connections to Denmark have received training or taken part in militant activities with al-Shabab in Somalia," and at least two people with connections to Denmark have committed suicide attacks in Somalia.
"We are shocked that some young people who have lived in Denmark for the past 16 years decide to travel to Somalia to make contact with al-Shabab," said Abdirahman M. Lidle, a spokesman for an umbrella association of 13 Somali groups in Aarhus.
Lidle said he was not sure if he knew the men. "There are 500-600 young Somalis in Aarhus and we cannot know everything," he said.
A Somali man living in Denmark was convicted of terrorism and sentenced to 10 years in prison after breaking into the home of one of the cartoonists with an ax in 2010.
Last year, a Chechen-born man was sentenced to 12 years in prison for preparing a letter bomb that exploded as he was assembling it in a Copenhagen hotel in 2010.
Another trial is under way in Denmark against four men accused of plotting a shooting spree at another Danish newspaper.