Merkel: public events can proceed despite canceled Germany match | News | DW | 18.11.2015
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Merkel: public events can proceed despite canceled Germany match

Chancellor Merkel defended the decision to cancel a soccer match between Germany and the Netherlands on Tuesday. She said that security officials had taken a sound decision in the face of ongoing terror alerts.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters at a brief press conference in Berlin that authorities had done the right thing in canceling last night's international football friendly in Hanover. She disclosed that authorities had received a "concrete" threat about a planned attack and added that it was best to err on the side of caution four days after Islamist attacks in Paris had killed at least 129 people.

"I was just as disappointed as millions of soccer fans that this match had to be canceled," she said.

"These are difficult decisions to take, perhaps the most difficult given the conflicting priorities of freedom versus security concerns. But yesterday it was right to decide in favor of security."

Merkel praises authorities

The chancellor went on to thank the police, the teams and their fans for their understanding, and added that she was confident that such large-scale events could continue to take place in Germany in the future.

Merkel also praised the work done by the authorities to ensure the safety of all involved and said that the measures taken in Hanover proved that the safeguards put in place by the government worked.

Merkel was due to convene a special meeting later on Wednesday with her top ministers over domestic security in light of the Paris attacks.

Merkel and other political leaders including Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel - expected at the match - were immediately flown back to Berlin when the stadium had to be evacuated.

All clear in Hanover

Meanwhile, the head of the Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz (BfV), Germany's domestic intelligence agency, also defended the decision to cancel the match.

"I can say we had very concrete leads that led us to give our recommendation to the German government," Hans-Georg Maassen told ARD, a German public broadcaster.

Maasen added that Germany should not take an appraoch of canceling more public events out of fear of attacks. But the Germany-Netherlands match is unlikely to be rescheduled. It was a friendly and just a warm-up for Euro 2016 in France.

The next matches on the German calendar are a friendly against England in Berlin and Italy in Munich.

Apparent false alarm

German police announced that they had found no explosives or other threats after thoroughly searching the HDI-Arena in Hanover overnight.

"There were no arrests and no explosives," an unnamed police spokeswoman in Hanover told reporters on Wednesday. Police had begun scouring the grounds surrounding Hanover's stadium after the few fans that showed up early for the match were ushered out of the stadium, about 90 minutes before kick-off.

Witnesses said a wide area surrounding the stadium was cleared while a group of heavily armed and masked security forces deployed inside the sports ground.

"We had received specific indications that an attack with explosives was planned," Hanover's local police chief Volker Kluwe told Germany's NDR state broadcaster. "We took them seriously, and that is why we took the measures."

Members of the German football team training with police vehicles in the background.

A close call in Paris and now a bomb scare in their home country has left members of Germany's national soccer team shaken as its latest match is canceled following a bomb scare in Hanover.

Traumatizing week for German team

It's been a rough week for Germany's national team. Early on Friday their Paris hotel had been evacuated because of a bomb warning. That evening the city was devastated by a series of coordinated attacks that had killed at least 129 people and injured scores more. A suicide bomber had attempted to enter the stadium where Germany and France but was prevented and detonated himself outside the gates.

German Midfielder Ilkay Gündogan, in a video posted on the DFB, said that they had wanted to play out of solidarity and a show of defiance against the violence inflicted upon France.

"Of course we talked about it and we said it would be extremely difficult if the game took place at all. To be honest, we opposed playing a bit because we are not machines but humans with emotions," Gündogan said in the video. "We are professionals in what we are doing and this doesn't simply pass us by."

Economic conference in Hanover

Despite the bomb scare, a long-planned economic conference for the state of Lower-Saxony is proceeding as planned. Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble is scheduled to deliver an afternoon speech followed by a number of state finance officials to discuss the regional economy.

Schäuble - the third in line of succession in the German cabinet - was not among the contingent traveling to the stadium last night.

jar, ss/msh (dpa, AFP, Reuters)

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