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German security alert

Essen city mall reopens after terror alert, probe continues

Shops have reopened at a giant German mall closed on Saturday by a terrorist alert. German investigators, who suspect Islamic State (IS) instigators in Syria, say the risk in Germany remains generally "high."

The multistory "Limbecker Platz" mall in the western city of Essen reopened to shoppers on Monday as police and intelligence services stayed mute on their inquiries.

"The investigations are continuing," said a police spokeswoman in Essen, a key city in the Ruhr District of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), Germany's most populous state.

Two men detained on Saturday for questioning were freed over the weekend.

Security remained high on the public agenda Monday - two months out from NRW's regional election to form its next Düsseldorf-based assembly on May 14.

From Berlin, Federal Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière told the German public broadcaster ARD on Sunday that the Essen center was evacuated Saturday after the alert from the Cologne-based domestic intelligence agency, the Verfassungsschutz.

"There were indications or orders from someone who had travelled to the region [Syria] from Germany. That shows how close the connection is. So it is good that federal and regional security authorities were vigilant," he said.

'Numerous' consultations

The Essen case had been the focus of "numerous" consultations at the GTAZ, a Berlin coordination center staffed by federal and German regional terrorism experts, de Maizière said.

He reiterated that the terrorism risk "remained high," adding that the public "also realizes this."

Deutschland Innenausschuss Landtag NRW Ralf Jäger zum Terrorfall Amri (picture-alliance/dpa/O. Berg)

NRW's Jäger: no concrete preparation observed

In Düsseldorf, NRW interior minister Ralf Jäger said there were no indications that the potential perpetrators had "concretely begun" preparations for an attack on the Essen mall. Authorities had, however, reacted with "great prudence."

Sales resume

"We are all back at work," said Alexandra Wagner, the manager of Essen's mall which comprises 200 shops spread over 70,000 square meters.

Extra security personnel were being positioned over the next few days "purely as a precaution," said the center management in a statement.

Saturday's evacuation in central Essen was reminiscent of a pre-Christmas scare at a large shopping center in Oberhausen, another key Ruhr District city.

ipj/rt (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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