Authorities are holding 38-year-old Khzr Karim Friad of Iraq after he was arrested last week near the British Embassy in Bucharest while carrying a 22cm-long knife. Authorities said he was arrested on suspicion that he was preparing to attack members of the diplomatic staff.
Friad, who declared himself a supporter of Saddam Hussein’s former regime, came to Romania to commit terrorist acts, namely to attack British and American diplomats to protest the military presence of the two countries in Iraq, Romania’s Directorate for Investigating Organised Crime and Terrorism announced.
Friad had been under continuous surveillance by the home intelligence service since he entered the country on December 7th.
“Our research showed the suspect had been previously involved in extremist-terrorist activities and has military training, being determined to commit a terror attack against diplomats,” the service said.
He was arrested when the undercover agents felt he posed a threat to the diplomatic staff. A judge ordered he would be detained for 29 days pending the investigation on charges of attempted murder.
Earlier this month, two Pakistanis who are members of a group associated with al-Qaeda, were expelled after authorities discovered evidence they were planning a terror attack during the winter holidays. One of them had received training in building improvised explosive devices, authorities said. That followed an October incident in which two Afghans were expelled on suspicion of terrorism and banned entry into Romania for the next 15 years.
Just a few weeks earlier, a radical Muslim sheik, Omar Bakri, in an interview with the Bulgarian newspaper 24 Ceasa, threatened that his followers can strike at the heart of Bulgaria and Romania. Romania has become a legitimate target for Muslim militants because of the troops deployed on the Iraqi and Afghan fronts, the sheik warned. In August, eight Palestinians and one Pakistani were expelled from Romania on suspicion of having relations with Hamas.
Sixty-six terror suspects have been expelled from Romania since the country joined NATO in 2004. A global terrorism index released this month by the Institute for Economics and Peace, an international think-tank, puts Romania among the safest countries and places it among the 31 countries out of 158 that didn’t face any terrorist risk between 2002 and 2011.
Romania is not safe from the risk of terror attacks, Teodor Melescanu, the head of the Romanian foreign intelligence service, told reporters earlier this year.
The warnings seem to have little effects among the ordinary Romanians.
“This is a strange feeling because I do not associate this country with Islamist terrorist activities,” Daniel Sava, 38, a salesman in Bucharest said. “We do not even have this reflex of looking around for possible suspects because this has never happened to us and I hope it will stay like this forever.”