German police foil planned Islamist attack near Frankfurt

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Police in southern Germany have thwarted a planned Islamist attack after detaining a married couple with suspected links to Salafist militants, the interior minister of the state of Hesse said on Thursday.

"Investigations by the police indicate that we have been able to prevent a terrorist attack," Peter Beuth, the interior minister of Hesse, told reporters. "This incident shows that must all remain very alert."

Beuth did not give details about specific attack targets.

Confirming a report by Die Welt newspaper, he said the couple were detained in Oberursel, near the financial centre Frankfurt, and were suspected of links to Salafist Islamist militants.

German police were due to give more details of the operation in a news conference scheduled for 4.30 p.m. (1430 GMT).

Die Welt identified the couple by their first names and initial - Halil and Senay D. The newspaper's website said Halil had links to the Salafist scene in Frankfurt and the al Qaeda network. It did not identify the source for its report.

The newspaper said police found explosives, material for making bombs, an assault rifle and ammunition at their home, though the interior minister did not confirm these details.

Police began surveillance after the couple bought large quantities of chemicals that could be used to make home-made bombs and started using false names, Die Welt said.

Salafists advocate a puritanical form of Islam and Germany's BfV domestic intelligence agency says their numbers are rising, as is the number of potential recruits for Islamic State.

The BfV estimates that 450 people from Germany have travelled to Syria and Iraq to join radical jihadist forces.

(Reporting by Stephen Brown; editing by Erik Kirschbaum and Ralph Boulton)