German friendly cancelled, reports of explosives-laden ambulance brushed aside

2015-11-18 00:04
Rescue workers stand outside the stadium in Hanover after the soccer friendly between Germany and The Netherlands was cancelled. (Michael Sohn, AP)

Rescue workers stand outside the stadium in Hanover after the soccer friendly between Germany and The Netherlands was cancelled. (Michael Sohn, AP)

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Hanover - The threat of a bomb attack by an Islamist group prompted the decision to call off Tuesday's football friendly between Germany and The Netherlands, according to security sources.

Security crews received the warning before the start of the game that possible attackers were in the stadium.

"We had concrete warnings that someone in the stadium wanted to detonate explosives," Hanover chief of police Volker Kluwe told dpa.

"The key warning came to us about 15 minutes after the gates were opened," he told broadcaster NDR in separate comments.

The warning came from a foreign intelligence service, a source in the security services told dpa.

However, Interior Minister Thomas de Maziere, speaking in an impromptu press conference, said he would not comment on the source of the information.

"The indications of danger grew thicker throughout the course of the early evening," said De Maziere. "After careful consideration, we decided to cancel for the safety of the people."

He pleaded for public understanding for what he called a tough decision.

Boris Pistorius, the interior minister of the state of Lower Saxony, in which Hanover lies, said that, to date, no arrests had been made, nor had there been any explosives discovered. He brushed aside media speculation about an ambulance full of explosives.

After the few fans who showed up early for the match were ushered out of the stadium, about 90 minutes before kick-off, police began scouring the grounds surrounding the HDI Arena. Witnesses said a wide area surrounding the stadium was cleared while a group of heavily armed and masked security forces rushed inside.

Officials said public transportation was moving efficiently in Hanover to get people back home, though some stops had been blocked at officials' request. There were reports later that the city's main train station was partially out of service.

Separately, a music organizer said a jazz concert in the city was also cancelled after police warned about the terrorism threat.

'Life must go on'

The decision to cancel the game comes just four days after suicide bombers detonated themselves outside a Paris stadium where Germany was playing a friendly game with France. Multiple attacks in Paris that night left 132 dead.

Football officials had considered canceling the event, but decided to go ahead with it as a sign that life must go on despite the terrorist threat.

"This game was supposed to be a special gesture. It was supposed to have been a gesture by the national team," said De Maziere.

"It feels like a loss, but the security of the fans and players takes precedence," Edith Schippers, Dutch sports minister, said on Dutch radio after returning to the Netherlands.

Chancellor Angela Merkel and several senior cabinet members were to have been in the audience. De Maziere said the decision to cancel the game was made just as the plane carrying him and Merkel landed. He said she returned to Berlin immediately.

The decision to go ahead with the game had already frayed nerves. The stadium was sealed off for half an hour earlier in the evening after the discovery of a suspicious suitcase. The stadium and some streets in the area were closed before police said the object posed no threat.

Belgium's Tuesday friendly with European champions Spain was also called off, late on Monday in the wake of the attacks.

Read more on:    germany  |  france  |  netherlands  |  paris under attack

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