We Are In The Sights Of ISIS: German Spy Chief Issues Chilling Warning After Football Match Is Abandoned But Says Country Should Look To Britain As An Example And Not Be Cowed Into Cancelling Events
Germany's spy chief today issued a chilling warning after a major football match was cancelled last night over a terror threat.
Dr Hans-Georg Maassen, president of the domestic intelligence services agency BfV, said 'Germany, like all Western states, is an enemy of Islamic State (IS).'
He added: 'If IS can hit us, if IS can carry out terror attacks in Germany, it will do so - that is our big concern.'
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However, Dr Maassen, who advised ministers to cancel last night's Germany-Holland match, said the country should not give in to terrorism by resolving to cancel big public events generally.
Speaking during an interview with German broadcaster ARD, he said he would recommend to cancel big public events in future 'at all' and added: 'We have to be aware that other countries have had problems with terrorist threats for many many years.
'We should look to those nations to see how they've tackle these issues and how they've overcome them - think of Israel, as well as Spain, Great Britain and the U.S. - they've had problems like this for many years and can hold football games and music events nevertheless.'
Germany cancelled yesterday's match just 90 minutes before kick-off. Above, special police forces cordon off the HDI Arena in Germany as announcements at the 45,000-capacity stadium were advised fans to leave
A concert venue in the city was also evacuated amid heightened security concerns in the wake of last week's atrocities in Paris.
One report on a local newspaper website claimed an ambulance packed with explosives was found outside the HDI Arena.
There were also reports of a known trouble-maker, who was held at gunpoint by police outside the ground.
According to an NTV reporter on CNN, a second suspicious device was found in a train station close to the stadium.
Announcements at the 45,000-capacity stadium in northern Germany advised fans to leave calmly and that there was no danger. Most fans were still waiting outside when the order to evacuate came.
Police said they were forced to cancel Germany's friendly game against Holland because they had 'concrete information' about a bomb threat
A police officer carries various weapons, ammunition and other devices as fans attending the fixture between Germany and Holland were evacuated
Officers were pictured inspecting an item outside the stadium where the match was due to take place
German newspaper Bild reported that French intelligence officials had warned their German counterparts about a potential attack before the match.
According to the paper, a North African terror cell was planning to attack Hanover with assault rifles and suicide vests - chillingly similar to the methods used in Paris on Friday.
While Dr Maassen said the leads ahead of yesterday's decision were 'very concrete', he declined to confirm reports that a tip-off came from French intelligence sources.
After the stadium was evacuated, officials said no arrests were made and no explosives found.
Later, police in Hanover removed a suspicious package on a train way on its way to southern Germany before giving the all clear.
German police say more than 750 suspected Islamists have travelled to the Middle East from Germany and the authorities know of about 70 who have returned from military training camps.
Top government officials including Chancellor Angela Merkel had been scheduled to attend the match to send a signal that Germany wouldn't bow to terrorism in the wake of the Paris attacks.
Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said the friendly match in the northern city was canceled after German authorities received information about a possible planned attack on the stadium.
He said: 'There is a general threat. Regularly we receive information about threats against Germany, especially after an attack like in Paris.
We have to analyse them, and need to judge them properly and fast.
'Ahead of this match we got more information that made us make the decision to cancel the game.
'The information came late, we couldn't do it earlier. I cannot give any comment on the source - that would make our work harder in future.'
Boris Pistorius, the local interior minister, said: 'This was a bitter decision, especially for me as Minister of Interior and Sports, but we made it for the security of the people.
'It would have been irresponsible, we had no doubt.
'We will have a greater police presence in Hanover all night.'
German newspaper Kreiszeitung first reported that there were fears of an ambulance packed with explosives.
Mr Pistorius said: 'It can not yet be confirmed that there was an ambulance or another vehicle with explosives inside.'
However, the newspaper said the authorities did not wish to comment as they wanted to avoid panic.
German Minister of Interior Mr Meizere refused to answer questions about the terror attack.
He said: 'Some of these answers would unsettle the population.'
The announcement to cancel the game came as spectators in the 14,000-capacity TUI-Arena, which is located close-by, were evacuated. A band, The Söhne Mannheims, were meant to be playing there tonight. The gig is expected to go ahead as planned.
German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere (centre), pictured with Lower Saxony Interior minister Boris Pistorius (left) and German national football team's representative Reinhard Rauball (right) at a press conference said there was a general threat
Dutch fans head to the main train station following the announcement around 90 minutes before kick-off
Police had earlier sealed off the ground after finding a suitcase before allowing fans to enter.
The German national team was just 5km from the stadium and they were taken to a police station but have now left. The Dutch players were sent home after space on a flight was found.
German team spokesman Jens Grittner on Twitter wrote: 'We were re-routed on our way to the stadium and are now in a safe area.
'We cannot say more at this moment.'
At tonight's press conference German FA official Reiner Rauball was asked by a reporter if the German team were the terror threat's target.
He said: 'We're not sure if they were the main target. We cannot say yet how this will affect the coming matches.'
Prior to tonight's fixture Manchester United midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger withdrew from playing in the friendly following the terror attacks in Paris on Friday night.
Security services told German news agency DPA the threat came from Islamists.
Hanover police president Volker Kluwe said: 'There were serious plans for an explosion, a specific risk situation for all of Hanover. We feared a bomb attack at the stadium tonight.'
It is believed special police task force and anti-terrorism units were sent to the stadium.
After Friday's attacks in Paris, security measures in Hanover had been tight.
Sky Sport News Germany reported that there was an immediate threat and the terror warning has been extended to all of Hanover. Speaking at a press conference, the police chief said people in city should go home and avoid large groups.
England scout Alan Cork, who admitted he feared for his life during Friday night's terrorist attacks in Paris when he attending the Stade de France, was also due to attend tonight's game.
On Twitter he wrote: 'Can't believe this trying to get into stadium, game off as police find bag inside, back to hotel quickly.'
He later wrote: 'Stadium evacuated, back at hotel now.'
Fans lights candles in remembrance of the 129 killed in the Paris terrorism attacks on Friday prior to tonight's game
A supporter holds a French flag outside the HDI-Arena stadium shortly before it was announced the game was called off
The flags of Germany, France and Holland are unfurled on the pitch during the rehearsal before the match
Police forces secure the infield of the HDI Arena after a suspicious package was found inside the ground
Police gather outside the stadium after the match was cancelled, and told fans to move away from the ground
Police set up a road block outside the stadium while trains coming into Hanover were stopped after the threat
Special forces drive inside the HDI Arena after a bomb alert prior to the match which was eventually cancelled 90 minutes before kick-off
Two police officers in the stands before the match was called off and fans told to leave the ground
Police forces secure an entrance of the the HDI Arena prior the international friendly match between Germany and Holland
Security in the area had been 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.
Trains travelling away from the area were later stopped.
Police with megaphones were in front of the stadium shouting: 'Ladies and gentlemen, dear football friends. I'm sorry, but the game has been cancelled at short notice. Please stay calm,there is no danger on the way back. Just go home.'
Former Holland international Ruud Gullit tweeted: 'I am now on the stadium of #hannover for the game #germany-#holland. They just suspended the game and are going to inform us why.'
The postponement comes just four days after Germany's match against France in Paris was targeted by terrorists as part of a coordinated attack on the capital.
Although a man wearing a suicide belt was prevented from entering the Stade de France last Friday, three explosions later took place outside the ground.
Two of the explosions were heard during the friendly which was played to a conclusion with France winning 2-0 thanks to goals from Olivier Giroud and Andre-Pierre Gignac.
The German squad spent the night in the ground before returning home on Saturday.