Germany in security crisis until year-end
Berlin - An increased terror threat to Germany will put security forces in a "state of emergency" until at least the end of the year, with the country's traditional Christmas markets at special risk, a senior official said.
Germany stepped up security measures this week on the basis of intelligence pointing towards a planned attack at the end of November, and said it was braced for the threat of an assault of the kind that killed 166 in Mumbai in 2008.
Rainer Wendt, head of Germany's police union, told Friday's edition of the Neue Osnabruecker Zeitung daily many officers had had planned leave cancelled over the next few weeks.
"Security officials are getting set for the state of emergency to last until the end of the year," Wendt said, adding that the country's police force was facing "its biggest challenge in the post-war history (of Germany)".
The threat to civilians was not just restricted to Germany's biggest cities like Berlin, Hamburg and Munich, he added.
"So long as the Christmas markets are on, we have to expect attacks at any time, and we will protect the population with a visible presence on these markets," Wendt said.
Four Islamist militants sought
Another post-war security crisis in Germany was in 1977, triggered by a rash of killings of West German establishment figures by ultra-leftist Red Army Faction guerrillas.
Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere ushered in the latest heightened alert on Wednesday, saying intelligence services had received word of planned strikes by Islamist militants.
Citing security officials, the mass-selling daily Bild said German police were seeking two Indian and two Pakistani Islamist militants already believed to be in the country.
"Their names and faces are unknown," the paper said.
Intelligence services believed the four militants were planning an attack between Monday and Thursday in the final week of November, the paper added.
Pakistan-based militant Ilyas Kashmiri and senior al-Qaeda figure Younis al Mauretani have both been linked with the threats to Germany, which on Thursday sent investigators to Namibia to investigate a suspicious package found in airport luggage believed to be destined for Munich.