Attack Aftermath Police Investigate Islamist Motives in Dortmund Bus Bombing

Authorities are examining whether Islamic State is responsible for explosions that hit the bus of soccer team Borussia Dortmund. Two suspects have been identified and one is in custody.
The explosions near Borussia Dortmund's bus may have an Islamist background.

Authorities probing explosions that hit the bus of Germany's Borussia Dortmund soccer team Tuesday evening are assuming the attack has an Islamist background, with two suspects having already been identified, the federal prosecutor confirmed at a news conference on Wednesday.

One suspect is temporarily in custody and both have had their apartments searched, said a spokeswoman.

According to German news agency DPA the suspect detained was a 25-year-old man from Iraq, while the other is a 28-year-old German from Fröndenberg.

Hannelore Kraft, the premier of North Rhine-Westphalia where the attack took place, said she was still in a state of shock.

“I have to be honest, I am still shocked,” Ms. Kraft told Handelsblatt. “I’m thankful that the first responders were on the scene so quickly and also thankful that the audience at the stadium and also the team reacted so calmly. Now we have to wait for the results of the investigation.”

A letter was confirmed to have been found near the attack site. German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung reports that it begins with, "In the name of Allah, the merciful, the compassionate." It allegedly refers to the Christmas market attack in Berlin in December, and claims that German Tornado military jets are involved in the murder of Muslims in Islamic State-controlled areas of Syria.

The letter threatens that athletes and celebrities "in Germany and other crusader countries" would be on a "death list of the Islamic State" until Germany withdraws its Tornado jets from Syria and a US military base in southwestern Germany is closed.

However investigators are not certain that Islamic State is responsible, as the letter was typed and not containing the organization's typical symbols.

At the beginning of March, Germany's domestic intelligence agency warned citizens about the increased potential of jihadist terror attacks in Germany following an attack on a Berlin Christmas market in December which left 12 people dead. The country is a hotbed of political tension as of late, in the midst of taking in over one million refugees in the last two years and a tight race leading up to a federal election in September.

DPA reports that the letter reads, "But seemingly Merkel you do not care about your little, filthy subjects. Your Tornadoes still fly over the grounds of the caliphate to murder Muslims."

At a separate news conference on Wednesday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert said the country's leader was appalled by the attack "like millions everywhere".

One more letter was found at the site which is also continuing to be investigated, according to the federal prosecutor. It claimed to have been from the German far-left scene called Antifa, short for anti-fascist, saying that the team was targeted for representing racism and right-wing populism, of which authorities have "significant doubts" of its veracity.

The set of three explosions went off shortly after 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday, allegedly hidden in bushes and detonated as the bus passed in the city of Dortmund, around seven miles from the stadium. The Borussia Dortmund team had just left its hotel, en route to a Champions League quarter-final soccer match against AS Monaco.

Two injuries have been reported. Spanish defender Marc Bartra, who underwent surgery on a broken wrist after being hit by flying glass, and a policeman, who had been escorting the team bus on motorcycle, and suffered trauma from the explosions' noise.

Borussia Dortmund now plays AS Monaco on Wednesday evening, with tightened security and German Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière in attendance. Security has also been ramped up for another game between Bayern Munich and Real Madrid taking place shortly after.


Barbara Woolsey is a writer for Handelsblatt Global in Berlin. To contact the author: [email protected]