Heightened Tensions Munich Police Investigate Reported Terror Threat

After receiving information that twin terrorist attacks may be planned on New Year's Eve in Munich, police sought seven suspects. No attack occurred but police in Germany and across Europe remained on alert.
Police on guard at Munich's main train station.

German police on Friday fanned out across Munich a day after authorities said they received  warnings that Islamic terrorists were planning to attack two train stations in the Bavarian capital on New Year's Eve.

The attacks never occurred but more than 100 Munich police investigators continued to secure the city hours after authorities warned partygoers to avoid the stations.

Munich remained on watch, according to police spokesman Werner Kraus, who told Bild, Germany's mass tabloid newspaper, that police assumed there was a higher risk of terrorist attack. Authorities were carrying out identity checks at the two stations and in the city.

At a press conference this morning, Munich's police president Hubertus Andrä said the force was looking for seven suspects of Iraqi and Syrian origin and had details about half of the people involved.

Germany's interior minister Thomas de Maizière said the sitation in Germany and Europe remained serious and authorities assumed there was a greater risk of international terrorism.

The two attacks did not take place Thursday evening but police in Munich evacuated the main train station and one in Pasing, a station to the west of the city center.

The city celebrated the turn of the year without incident but many were unsettled by the warnings from police just before 11 p.m. via social media advising people to avoid the stations.

German authorities said they received warnings that attacks were planned Thursday, reportedly from intelligence services in the United States at midday and later from French officials. The police force in Munich received notification at 7:40 p.m. from the German Federal Criminal Police Office. The two forces agreed the threat was too serious to ignore.

According to the authorities, there was an imminent threat centered on the two locations, planned for midnight. In a media conference on Thursday evening, the Bavarian interior minister, Joachim Herrmann, said information suggested five to seven people were involved.

Mr. Herrmann said a search was underway for seven people and all necessary security measures were being taken. The press conference was streamed in the Internet and followed by thousands of people.

Other news outlets in Bavaria reported that the attacks were planned by seven Iraqis living in Munich. They planned to go in pairs to the stations and commit suicide attacks, according to Bayerischer Rundfunk, the state broadcaster.

The station said the Iraqis lived in Munich and were known to the authorities.

After the terrorist attacks in Paris on November 13, authorities in New York, Paris, Berlin and other major cities increased security around New Year's celebrations. In Moscow and Brussels, the cities cancelled planned celebrations due to the threat of terrorism.

In Berlin, visitors to the Brandenburg Gate were not allowed to bring bags and bagpacks.

At 2 a.m. Munich's police president Hubertus Andrä reported that the situation had eased slightly.

By 4 a.m., police reopened the train stations and tweeted that they were glad no attacks had taken place but would remain watchful. In further tweets, the police thanked the people of Munich for cooperating and added that the situation was still very serious.

This morning at Munich's train station, there were fewer people because it is a holiday and according to Deutsche Bahn, any delays were not related to security.

Nonetheless, extra police were stationed in Munich and the security authorities are continuing investigations.


Handelsblatt's Axel Höpner is a correspondent for Munich. Allison Williams is deputy editor in chief of Handelsblatt Global Edition. To contact the authors: [email protected], [email protected]