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Cologne secures cathedral in light of Sagrada Familia terror plot

Police have placed barriers in front the Cologne Cathedral. The measure follows reports that militants sought to target Barcelona's Sagrada Familia - another, albeit more modern, icon of ecclesiastical architecture.

Police have secured the area surrounding Cologne's cathedral following last week's attack in Barcelonawhich killed 15 people.

"We took the decision to act as quickly as possible after looking at attacks in Europe," a spokeswoman for the police department said on Wednesday. "Our job is to protect sensitive spots - and the cathedral is a symbol of Cologne, known around the world."

Large stone blocks will form a barrier at the entrance to the public square in front of the cathedral. 

Hit 14 times by Allied bombs during World War II, Cologne's cathedral survived structurally and reopened after repairs in 1956. In 1996, UNESCO added it to its World Heritage List.

Watch video 00:54

World Heritage Site: Cologne Cathedral

'Calm and relaxedness'

Media reported that the militant cell in Catalonia had also plotted an attack on Antoni Gaudi's Gothic-Art Nouveau hybrid Sagrada Familia church. Although militants have employed automobiles in a handful of attacks in Europe over the past year, many cities - deterred by high costs, the temporary nature of such measures and a reluctance to disrupt everyday life - have not rushed to mitigate risks by changing their layouts.

"We don't want to wall up the city," Andreas Geisel, Berlin's city-state interior minister, said in an interview with Bild newspaper published on Wednesday. "That would achieve the opposite of what we want: to send out an image of calm and relaxedness."

Though Germany's capital has implemented few other measures, barriers remain in place around the site of a Christmas market where a militant drove a stolen truck into crowds and killed 12 people last year. Berlin's Protestant cathedral will also continue to maintain increased security measures, including bag checks and regular preparedness drills, implemented following a series of terror attacks in Paris in November 2015.

mkg/sms (Reuters, kna, epd)

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