Germany-Netherlands Soccer Match Called Off After Bomb Threat

Chancellor Merkel was scheduled to attend match in Hanover; German official says no bombs were found, contrary to earlier reports.

Two police officers stand in the HDI-Arena in Hannover, Germany, Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2015 just before the stadium was evacuated before the friendly soccer match between Germany and the Netherlands.
AP

A friendly soccer game between Germany and the Netherlands in the city of Hanover in Germany was canceled at short notice due to a bomb threat on Tuesday.

An intelligence warning, which also led to the cancelation of a jazz concert in the city, sparked false reports that explosives had actually been found in Hannover and that suspects had been arrested.

Hanover's chief of police said on German TV that an explosive device "intended to be set-off inside the stadium" was found, Deutsche Welle reported. But Germany's interior minister Thomas de Maiziere said later during a press conference that no explosives were found in the city. 

De Maiziere told reporters that information was received of a "concrete threat" of an attack, and that therefore the decision was made to cancel the game. According to him, the information was received from a "foreign source."

Hanover's main train station was also partially closed off after a suspicious device was found, and several other public transport stations were closed. Police also evacuated a large concert hall in the city, where the band Sohne Mannheims was scheduled to perform at 8 P.M.

Earlier, German media reported that police discovered a truck bomb disguised as an ambulance outside the stadium. The reports were unconfirmed by police.

According to the Bild news website, German security services were alerted more than a day in advance by French intelligence that a group of men of North African origin, armed with automatic weapons and explosives, planned to carry out an attack in Germany. According to the report, the group, which is known to authorities. Later, French intelligence reportedly relayed intelligence that an Iraqi man was planning to attack the stadium.

Merkel planned to attend match

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.

Members of the German government including Chancellor Angela Merkel were scheduled to attend the match to send a signal that Germany wouldn't bow to terrorism in the wake of the Paris attacks.

Security was very tight, 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.

Meanwhile, France's defense minister said 10 warplanes were targeting Islamic State's Syrian stronghold of Raqqa for the third consecutive day on Tuesday and vowed that the campaign against the group would intensify in the coming days.

"At this moment, our air force ... 10 fighter jets are again hitting Raqqa, and as you know tomorrow the aircraft carrier Charles De Gaulle will leave for the eastern Mediterranean to continue strikes on specific targets in particular around Raqqa and Deir ez-Zour," Jean-Yves Le Drian told TF1 tv channel.

He added that he believed Russia's position was shifting since confirmation that a tourist plane full of Russians was blown up by Islamic State over the Sinai last month.

"Russia is shifting because today Russian cruise missiles hit Raqqa. Maybe today this grand coalition with Russia is possible because it has evolved," he said, referring to President Francois Hollande's call to create a large coalition against the group.