German police today lifted an alert of an imminent attack in Munich, hours after evacuating two key train stations over fears jihadists were planning a New Year suicide bomb assault.
Officials had said they were tipped off about a plot by the Islamic State group to strike at the southern German city shortly before midnight as Europe prepared to ring in the New Year in an atmosphere of unprecedented security.
European capitals have been on high alert since November when IS jihadists slaughtered 130 people in a series of gun and suicide attacks in Paris, stoking fears new assaults could happen over the Christmas and New Year holidays.
But German investigators, acting on information from “friendly countries” including France, said they have so far failed to substantiate the threat.
“Overall I would say that the situation for Munich is as it was before this threat of attack,” Munich police chief Hubertus Andrae told journalists on Friday.
Investigators had in hand the names of some of the “five to seven” suspects allegedly planning to blow themselves up at locations including Munich’s main rail hub and Pasing station in the western part of the city, he said, but have not yet found any evidence.
“We have examined data relating to these names, but at the moment, we do not know if these names are correct, whether these people exist and where they are,” he said, adding that the suspects were allegedly from Iraq and Syria.
A deployment of 550 officers overnight has now been reduced to 100, and Andrae urged the public to “live as you did before”.
Nevertheless, the police chief refuted speculation that the threat was a false alarm, saying that “if there is such information, we have to act”.
Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere thanked Bavarian authorities for their action, warning in a statement that the security situation in Europe and Germany “remains serious in the New Year”.
“Security agencies continue to expect a high threat stemming from international terrorism,” he said.
Just over an hour before the New Year, police ordered the evacuation of the two stations over a possible “terror attack”, issuing alerts via Twitter in several languages.
Rail services at both stations were immediately suspended and police urged the public to avoid large gatherings. Both stations later reopened at around 3:30am, but police called for vigilance.
Regional broadcaster Bayerischer Rundfunk said the suspects were seven Iraqis living in Munich who were allegedly planning to work in pairs and blow themselves up at the two stations as well in other parts of the city.