Confusion, fear in Germany after stadiums evacuated following bomb threat
HANNOVER, Germany —Confusion reigned in Hannover, Germany on Tuesday night after two stadiums were evacuated following a bomb threat.
Interior minister Thomas de Maiziere said no explosives had been found at the stadium, contradicting the Hannover police chief, who was quoted by multiple sources as saying “there was a device intended to be detonated inside the stadium.”
A soccer match at the venue was canceled after police said “serious plans for explosions” were thwarted.
Unconfirmed reports from a local German newspaper had said a truck possibly disguised as an emergency vehicle or ambulance initially believed to contain explosives was found at an unknown location.
There was no immediate confirmation of that report, though a German television reporter later appeared live on CNN to relay reports circulating in the local media of the discovery of some kind of device possibly found inside a truck.
Referring to another bomb threat about an hour beforehand that turned out to be a false alarm, Hannover police chief Volker Kluwe said, “After the first object turned out to be harmless, we got a tip that had to be taken seriously that an attack was being planned.”
Lower Saxony Interior Minister Boris Pistorius, speaking at a late news conference, said no explosives had been found by then, and no arrests had been made.
Pistorius said there was no confirmation of rumors that an explosive device was placed in an ambulance or another vehicle inside or outside the stadium.
Federal Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere told the same news conference that indications of a planned attack became stronger as the match approached, and that the game was called off at his recommendation.
De Maiziere said he could give few details because he needed to protect the source of information, and because “part of these answers would upset the population.”
Police shut down parts of the main Hannover train station and several subway stations while searching the area around the stadium.
An announcement by police informed spectators about an hour and a half before kickoff on Tuesday that the stadium would be evacuated.
DW Sports reported that the TUI-Arena, which was to host a pop concert, had also been evacuated.
Members of the German government including Chancellor Angela Merkel had been scheduled to attend the match to send a signal that Germany wouldn’t bow to terrorism in the wake of the Paris attacks.
Announcements at the stadium in northern Germany advised people to go home in a calm manner, and that there was no danger to fear. Most fans were still waiting outside when the order to evacuate came about an hour and a half before kickoff.
There were no signs of panic, with most fans seemingly accepting the decision with resignation. Police became more forceful with members of the media who attempted to stay beside the stadium.
Security was very tight before the game, with police armed with machine guns surrounding the stadium and maintaining a very obvious presence in the city. Reporters arriving for the game were searched, while a sniffer dog was deployed to check their bags.
A second stadium in the northern German city was also evacuated.
Concert-goers had been waiting for the band “Soehne Mannheims” to play.
Kluwe told German public broadcaster NDR that the alleged threat involved the “detonation of explosives in the stadium.” He says the “key warning reached us about 15 minutes before the gates opened.”
Germany’s national soccer squad said the team was taken to “a safe place” by police.
Kluwe encouraged people in Hannover to go home, stay away from stadiums and not move about in large groups.