The terror alert in Munich, Germany, was lifted Friday as investigators puzzled over the identities of potential attackers implicated in an intelligence tip-off that prompted the closure of two train stations on New Year’s Eve.
“The situation has eased again slightly, after – thank God – no attack was carried out in the night,” Joachim Herrmann, interior minister for the southern German state of Bavaria, of which Munich is the capital, told a local broadcaster.
Herrmann said that while Germany’s terrorism defense measures remained in line with the rest of Europe at present, the security alert in this case had been canceled.
Around 1,000 additional police officers have been deployed to the city center and two city train stations, including the central one. Both stations were shut down in the final hours of 2015 after police, acting on a foreign intelligence tip, issued a terrorism warning.
Munich Chief of Police Hubertus Andrae defended the authorities’ decision to introduce the high security level due to the short notice of the warning.
Officials received the “concrete” warning upon which the terror alert was based about 7:40 pm (1840 GMT). It is said to have come from the French intelligence agency and outlined a similar attack to those carried out in Paris on November 13 by Islamic State (IS) supporters.
According to dpa sources, the United States had also alerted Germany to a possible attack a couple of days prior. US intelligence officials provided German authorities with details of the planned attack, named possible suspects and flagged target locations.
An investigation is currently underway to identify between five and seven Iraqi and Syrian nationals, Andrae said.
However, at a press conference on Friday morning Andrae was unable to offer further details on the potential suspects and told reporters “maybe the people do not even exist.”
German security authorities believe that several people entered Germany during November and October travelling on Syrian passports with serial numbers similar to those in documents in the possession of IS.
There was a feeling of unease among locals despite the announcement that the threat had subsided.
“The probability of an attack has increased because Germany is now involved in the war,” one local restaurant boss told dpa, referring to Germany’s recent decision to offer troops and other forms of military support to the anti-IS alliance in Syria.
“We won’t let it spoil the party. But a strange feeling is still there,” said Gunther, one of the revellers who ventured outdoors to celebrate the new year.
He noted that the city was less busy than it had been on previous New Year’s Eves, but added that bad weather could also have put many off.
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