Germany-Holland football match called off after bomb threat

  • Agencies, Berlin
  • Updated: Nov 18, 2015 01:38 IST
A general view shows the empty HDI Arena stadium in Hanover after a soccer match was called off by police due to a security threat. (REUTERS)

A friendly football match between Germany and the Netherlands was cancelled at short notice due to the serious threat of an attack at the stadium on Tuesday.

“We had concrete evidence that someone wanted to set off an explosive device in the stadium,” Hannover police chief Volker Kluwe told German TV.

Referring to another bomb threat about an hour before that turned out to be a false alarm, 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.”

Spectators had only just started entering the Hannover stadium when the evacuation order was given. The order affected mainly stadium staff, match workers, VIP guests and media.

Members of the German government, including Chancellor Angela Merkel, had not arrived, but were scheduled to attend the match to send a signal that Germany wouldn’t bow to terrorism in the wake of the deadly Paris attacks on Friday.

At the time, Germany was playing France in a football friendly in the Stade de France, outside of which three suicide bombers blew themselves up, killing one bystander.

Armed security personnel stand in front of the stadium after the match was called off due to a security threat. (REUTERS)

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 kick-off.

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.

Germany press officer Jens Grittner said the team bus was redirected to a “safe place,” and that was all he could say for the moment.

Security at the stadium was very tight, with police armed with machine guns 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 spokesperson for Lower Saxony Minster Stephan Weil told DPA that interior minister Thomas de Maiziere was to meet with local counterpart Boris Pistorius later Tuesday.

Earlier in the day, German police arrested seven people -- five men and two women -- near the Belgian border for their suspected role in the Paris attacks that killed 129 people. But, they were set free shortly.

German interior minister Maiziere said that hopes authorities had netted a “big fish” were dashed, saying “unfortunately he is not who we hoped he would be”.

The minister said “there does not appear to be a close connection to the Paris attacks”, speaking at a Berlin press conference.

Shortly after, the seven were released, national news agency DPA reported, citing police as saying there was “no indication that the persons are connected to the attacks”.

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