Terror threats mar New Year celebrations in Germany

RSTV Bureau
New York new year's eve

New York: New York’s Times Square glows during New Year’s Eve celebrations seen from a New York Police helicopter patrolling the city, Thursday, Dec. 31, 2015, in New York. AP/PTI

An hour before revellers in Munich were about to ring in the New Year, two major trains stations in the German city were shut because of a possible terror attack.

Munich authorities had received “very concrete information” from the intelligence service of a friendly country that the Islamic State (IS) had plans to carry out terror attacks in the city on New Year’s Eve.

“The Federal Criminal Police Office on New Year’s Eve informed the Bavarian police at about 1940 that there was information from a friendly intelligence agency that IS was planning an attack at midnight tonight at Munich main train station or in Pasing,” said Joachim Herrmann, Interior Minister of Bavaria.

“The Munich police informed the public and the decision was above all made to restrict traffic at Pasing train station and also Munich main train station, then all of the transport in Pasing. I think this was the right decision because I believe that we cannot take risks regarding such concrete threats about concrete places and concrete times,” Herrmann said on Friday.

As soon as the authorities received the alert, police urged the public to avoid large gatherings. Both stations in Munich were immediately evacuated. Police also issued alerts via Twitter in several languages at around 10:40 pm local time. The stations were later reopened at around 3.30 am, but the police still urged the people to remain vigilant.

According to the Munich police chief Hubertus Andrae, “five to seven” IS suicide bombers were planning the attack.

Investigation is underway even as the police are hunting for about seven people suspected of plotting the terror attack.

Most of Germany was put on high alert post the terror threat. Unprecedented security was deployed in several areas in Germany as well as Europe. Security forces in many European capitals increased their vigil.

European capitals have been on high alert since November when Islamic State jihadists slaughtered 130 people in a series of gun and suicide attacks in Paris, stoking fears they could stage further attacks over the Christmas and New Year holidays.

In France, more than 100,000 police were deployed to guard celebrations, as defiant Parisians turned out on the Champs Elysees to greet 2016 in the biggest public gatherings since the November 13 attacks.

Tightened security conditions put a damper on festivities not just in Europe, but also in other parts of the world.

In New York, around 6,000 police watched over the bustling Times Square where thousands had gather to watch the historic ball-drop. New York police described the drill as the biggest security operation in the city’s history.

(With inputs from agencies)