Berlin: German police released seven people they had arrested today, saying there was no evidence linking them to the Paris attacks.
Police near the Belgian border had detained five men and two women through the day as they hunt for suspects related to last Friday’s bloody jihadist attacks in France.
The special units had hoped one of those detained near the city of Aachen would be wanted suspect Salah Abdeslam, 26 — the younger brother of Brahim Abdeslam, who blew himself up in the series of attacks.
But German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said that hopes authorities had netted a “big fish” were dashed, saying “unfortunately he is not who we hoped he would be”.
The minister said “there does not appear to be a close connection to the Paris attacks”, speaking at a Berlin press conference.
Shortly after, the seven were released, national news agency DPA reported, citing police as saying there was “no indication that the persons are connected to the attacks”.
Earlier an Aachen city police spokesman had said the suspects “could be connected with the Paris attacks” but also cautioned that the suspicion “could go up into thin air”.
European police forces are searching for Salah Abdeslam, who was named by French police as a key suspect in the Paris attacks in which 129 people were killed.
News site Spiegel Online reported that the German police alert was sparked by a supermarket employee who reported spotting a suspect who resembled Abdeslam.
Salah Abdeslam — the younger brother of Brahim Abdeslam, who blew himself up in Friday’s attacks — is being sought by French investigators who have issued a photograph of him and describing him as “dangerous”.
Belgium, where the French citizen lived, has issued an international arrest warrant.
Abdeslam allegedly rented a black Polo, registered in Belgium, which was found near the Bataclan concert venue in Paris, where three attackers killed 89 people.
Abdeslam was in Austria in September, telling police after arriving from Germany with two men that he was “on holiday”, Austrian authorities said today.