World

Threat of 'imminent' terror attack in Germany while France debates passport-stripping

Berlin: German police evacuated two railway stations in Munich late on Thursday, saying on Twitter they had received a tip regarding a planned militant attack on New Year's Eve in the Bavarian capital.

Police evacuate two Munich train stations

RAW VISION: German police evacuate two train stations in Munich, saying they received a tip that a terror attack was planned for New Year's Eve.

On Friday the Munich police chief said Germany received a tip hours before midnight that militants from Iraq and Syria were planning attacks in Munich but police had been unable to find the suspects and were not even sure if they were in the country.

Hubertus Andrae told a news conference that German officials had received a "very concrete" tip that suicide attacks were planned at railway stations in the southern city at midnight.

Security officers frisk New Year's Eve revellers in Berlin.
Security officers frisk New Year's Eve revellers in Berlin. Photo: Getty Images

"We received names. We can't say if they are in Munich or in fact in Germany," Andrae said.

A Munich police spokesman said on Friday: "The situation has not eased and the terror alert remains."

On their Twitter feed, Munich police said: "Good morning to those, who spent the night out in #munich! Thanks for staying calm and for your understanding concerning our measures."

Earlier, Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann told a news conference that Germany had received a tip from another country's intelligence service that the Islamic State militant group planned to attack Munich on New Year's Eve. He did not name the country but German television said in an unsourced report that the tip-off came from France.

German special police guard Munich's main train station.
German special police guard Munich's main train station. Photo: DPA

On Thursday Munich police posted on Facebook that according to "serious information, there will be an attack tonight".

"We have concrete tips, which we can't sweep under the rug," a spokeswoman told DPA on Thursday.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel records her televised New Year's address.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel records her televised New Year's address. Photo: Getty Images

The warning came shortly before the city celebrated the start of the new year.

Five to seven suicide bombers were to take part in the attack, Andrae said at the same conference.

French President Francois Hollande in Paris last week.
French President Francois Hollande in Paris last week. Photo: Bloomberg

"Actual lead that in #Munich a terror attack is planned. Please avoid crowd gatherings as well as the central train station and the Pasinger train station," read a translation of the German police tweet.

It added: "Pasinger and central stations have been evacuated. Trains are no longer running. Please follow police instructions."

Another tweet from the police said: "We note explicitly once again that we take the threat very seriously. Please remain alert."

Meanwhile, in neighbouring France, President Francois Hollande used a new year's message to defend controversial plans to strip citizenship from those convicted of terrorism offences.

"The threat is still there," he said in a televised address. "It remains in fact at its highest level, and we are regularly disrupting planned attacks."

The French leader defended proposed constitutional changes to support a crackdown on militants following November's deadly Islamist attacks in Paris, which killed 130 people. Under the plans, French-born dual passport holders could be stripped of their nationality - a sanction currently applicable only to naturalised citizens.

The proposals, yet to go before the French National Assembly and Senate, have divided Mr Hollande's ruling Socialists and drawn veiled criticism from his own justice minister, Christine Taubira. "I made a choice in good conscience that was proportionate to what France has suffered," Hollande said.

The French and German measures added to security fears in Europe heightened by Belgium's decision to cancel New Year's Eve celebrations in Brussels, citing a suspected plot to carry out an attack in the capital.

Belgian police said late on Thursday that three people had been arrested for questioning as part of an investigation into the plot.

German police cancelled a friendly soccer game between Germany and the Netherlands in the city of Hanover on November 17 hours before it was due to start because of fears of a planned bomb attack.

The match was due to have been held four days after the attacks in Paris that killed 130 people. After the cancellation, German government officials struggled to give the soccer-crazy country a convincing explanation, saying only that it had been the right decision.

No arrests were made and no explosives were found after the cancellation.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has rebuffed pressure to clamp down on migrant arrivals along Bavaria's border with Austria, which critics say allowed Islamic State to smuggle in militants to carry out attacks in Europe.

Opposition to her stance grew at home and abroad after two of the suicide bombers in the November 13 Paris attacks were found to be have been carrying fake Syria passports.

In an apparent effort to allay those concerns, Germany said on Thursday it would start holding personal hearings for asylum seekers from Syria as of Friday, reversing a policy of granting almost automatic refugee status for Syrians.

Syrians have since the end of 2014 enjoyed a simplified asylum process, which has exempted them from personal hearings.

Reuters, AP