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2nd man held in US Embassy bomb attempt

VIENNA, Austria - A Bosnian arrested in an apparent plot to bomb the U.S. Embassy in Vienna seems confused and in the past received psychiatric care, Austrian officials said Tuesday as they tried to determine a motive for the botched attempt.

Asim C., a 42-year-old unemployed Bosnian, was arrested Monday after his bag — grenades, plastic explosives and bits of metal — set off a detector at the embassy entrance, which is fortified and guarded by U.S. Marines.

He fled on foot, but was captured nearby after tossing the backpack into the street. It did not explode, and no one was injured.

Erik Buxbaum, Austria's general manager for public security, said at a news conference that Asim C. had, "at least from time to time," received psychiatric care in the past few years.

Gerhard Jarosch, a spokesman for the Vienna public prosecutor's office, said he was "not fully there mentally" and suggested he may be treated while awaiting trial.

Authorities said Tuesday they arrested a second Bosnian suspect and that the would-be bomber had contacted the embassy before the attempt.

The public prosecutor's office said police took Mehmed D., 34, into custody Monday night in Tulln, a town about 15 miles west of Vienna.

Investigators said both men were citizens of Bosnia-Herzegovina who lived in Tulln and knew each other. Their last names were not released, in line with Austrian privacy laws.

Buxbaum said Asim C. said Mehmed D. had told him to bring the backpack to the embassy, and gave investigators his name and an address. But Buxbaum said Mehmed D. vehemently denied any involvement.

Police found about a pound of explosives during a search of Asim C.'s home, Buxbaum said. He added that similar material was used in the former Yugoslavia.

Buxbaum said the grenades were not fitted with detonators and it was unclear whether they were rigged to explode.

Police said Asim C. was carrying a book containing references to Islam. The Kurier newspaper published what it said was a photo of the book, which appeared to be a Muslim prayer manual.

Muslims are the predominant ethnic group in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and though the vast majority are moderate or secular, authorities there have been monitoring individuals who have become radicalized and are believed to have ties to extremists.

But Doris Edelbacher, chief spokeswoman for Austria's federal counterterrorism office, played down speculation Tuesday that the thwarted attack may have been motivated by radical Islamic ideology.

"It is too early to speak of an Islamist background," Buxbaum said.

The motive for the bombing attempt remained unclear. U.S. Embassy officials did not return telephone messages from The Associated Press seeking comment.

Last month, authorities arrested three suspected al-Qaida operatives — all Austrian citizens of Arab origin in their 20s — in connection with a video posted online in March that had threatened Austria and Germany with attacks if they did not withdraw their military personnel from Afghanistan.

One of the suspects was released several days later for lack of evidence. Authorities in Canada, meanwhile, arrested another suspect believed to be linked to the Internet threat.


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