German police arrest two suspected Syrian spies

BERLIN Tue Feb 7, 2012 6:57am EST

BERLIN (Reuters) - German police arrested two men Tuesday suspected of spying on Syrian opposition activists for President Bashar al-Assad's intelligence services, prosecutors said.

The two men, a 47-year-old with German and Lebanese citizenship identified as Mahmoud El A., and a 34-year-old Syrian named Akram O., were detained in Berlin.

"The accused ... are strongly suspected of investigating members of the Syrian opposition in Germany over a period of years for a Syrian intelligence service," the Federal Prosecutors said in a statement.

About 70 police officers were involved in the operation and also searched apartments used by a further six suspects.

"The other suspects are also believed to have been involved in spying," the Karlsruhe-based prosecutors said.

Information leading to the arrests came from Germany's domestic intelligence service and the two men will appear in a Berlin court Wednesday.

In December, a Green politician for the city of Berlin with a Syrian background, Ferhad Ahma, was beaten up in his flat.

Ahma had been involved in activities against Assad's government and several Green lawmakers have linked the attack to Syria's secret service.

The arrests come as Syrian forces launched a fresh assault on the city of Homs, the latest in a bloody crackdown on a popular revolt which has, according the United Nations, left 5,000 dead.

Syria's government says it is fighting foreign-backed Islamist "terrorists" who have killed 2,000 soldiers and police.

(Reporting By Madeline Chambers)

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