Prior to Pope’s Trip to Poland, Iraqi Immigrant Arrested with Explosives

Pope Francis attends a meeting with the world of labour at the Bachilleres College in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico on February 17, 2016.

Polish police have arrested an Iraqi immigrant in possession of explosives and a series of notes on preparing terrorist acts against supermarkets in Poland, according to local reports.

Although police only found small amounts of explosives on the 48-year-old man, “not sufficient to make an explosion,” traces of explosives were found on the man’s luggage and clothes at hotels in Lodz and Krakow.

Police arrested the man at a hotel in Lodz on Sunday. Among his personal effects were memos regarding preparation of a terrorist attack, which included a list of French shopping centers and supermarkets in Poland.

According to Lodz court spokesman Pawel Urbaniak, the identity of the Iraqi citizen, who had only “very basic” documents on him, is still unknown. He had arrived in Lodz only days before the arrest and had no permanent address in Poland. Earlier he had stayed in Switzerland and Sweden, before being deported.

Beata Marczak, spokeswoman for prosecutors in Lodz, said that “small amounts of explosives, not sufficient to make an explosion” were found on the man, who has been put under two months’ arrest and will be tried for illegal possession of explosives. The crime carries a maximum sentence of eight years in prison.

Marczak said that as yet there are no legal grounds for categorizing this as terrorism, adding that the investigation is being conducted under the supervision of the Internal Security Agency (ABW). Polish authorities have placed the man on two-month detention while ABW agents determine whether the man was acting alone or as part of a criminal group.

Sunday’s arrest took place just two days ahead of the arrival of Pope Francis for the celebration of World Youth Day in Poland, where as many as a million young Catholics from around the globe are expected to attend.

Poland’s Interior Minister Mariusz Blaszczak says the gathering will be safe and noted that Border Guards have denied entry to some 200 people since July 4, when the country introduced temporary border controls in prevision of the youth gathering and a NATO summit that was held in Warsaw July 8-9.

Prior to the Pope’s arrival Wednesday, Poland is deploying over 40,000 security personnel for the July 26-31 youth festival in the southern city of Krakow, which has been described as a sort of “Catholic Woodstock.”

World Youth Day was the brainchild of Saint John Paul II, who announced the idea in 1985. John Paul had been archbishop of Krakow prior to his election to the papacy in 1978.

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