BERLIN - German politicians called on Wednesday for the "hero refugees" who captured a fellow Syrian migrant suspected of planning a bomb attack on a Berlin airport to be honored with a prestigious award, describing them as a model of integration.
The actions of the two Syrians who tied up the suspect in their flat in Leipzig and alerted police have been seized on as a rare good news story in the midst of the migration crisis facing Germany and Europe.
"The young men have earned the Federal Cross of Merit," Social Democrat defense expert Johannes Kahrs told Bild daily, adding they had shown a profound respect towards Germans. "It is hard to imagine more integration, it is exemplary," he said.
Juergen Klimke, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats, said the medal — awarded to individuals who have made a special contribution to Germany — would send a strong signal of recognition and show that 'Courage is worth it.'
Last year's influx of some 900,000 migrants has raised fears about security, especially after migrants were involved in bomb, knife and machete attacks in July. Merkel has drawn criticism from her own conservative camp and shed support to the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany.
Investigators believe Syrian Jaber Albakr, 22, who arrived in Germany last year, was close to staging an attack comparable to those that killed 130 people in Paris last November and 32 in Belgium in March. They suspect he was inspired by the Islamic State militant group.
The manner of Albakr's arrest has raised questions about whether the police botched an attempt on Saturday to capture him, after which a two-day manhunt ensued. The incident has also led to renewed calls for a review of all migrants who were granted asylum in last year's influx.
Bild showed a picture of Albakr on a sofa in the Leipzig apartment with his ankles bound by an electric cable and one of the migrants headlocking him. "Why didn't the police manage that?" it asked.
One of the captors, Mohamed A., 35, has said he and another man picked up Albakr at Leipzig train station after he contacted an online network for Syrian refugees.
He said they ate lamb together and drove to a friend's home.
After recognizing him as the target of the manhunt, they overpowered him and called the police, refusing his invitation to accept money in return for releasing him.
"I am so grateful Germany took us in. We couldn't allow him to harm any Germans," the man told Bild on Tuesday.