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English soccer match canceled after suspicious item found at stadium

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MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - MAY 15: Fans are evacuated from the ground as the match is abandoned ahead of the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and AFC Bournemouth at Old Trafford on May 15, 2016 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

MANCHESTER, England — Manchester United’s home game against Bournemouth in the Premier League has been called off after a suspect package was found inside Old Trafford stadium.

Greater Manchester police said on its Twitter page Sunday that the match had been abandoned.

Two stands inside Old Trafford — The Sir Alex Ferguson Stand and the Stretford End — were evacuated about 30 minutes before the scheduled kickoff time of 3 p.m. (1400 GMT), with United saying “a suspect package was found in the North West Quadrant.”

Fans in other stands initially had been allowed to stay inside the stadium.

Police are asking people to “avoid the area if possible.”

A European security official says the suspicious item coincided with increased chatter about threats to sports stadiums and other targets which would draw considerable crowds.

This said, leaving a package like this runs counter to tactics seen recently by extremists and the official said “many times these things amount to hoaxes.

The official said “The terror threat level associated with Irish dissidents has been raised recently due to credible threats we’ve been monitoring.” The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak about ongoing investigations.

Last week, British officials raised the threat level regarding a possible attack on the mainland by Irish Republican dissidents, upping the threat level from “moderate” to “substantial.” That means an attack was viewed as a “strong possibility.”

Security at Premier League stadiums was increased after the Paris attacks that killed 130 people in November, which involved three teams of attackers who blew themselves up or sprayed gunfire at the Stade de France sports stadium, cafes and bars, and the Bataclan concert hall.

The rest of the Premier League games being played on Sunday, the final day of the season, went ahead as scheduled.