Amid heightened concern about a possible terror attack on German soil, the glass dome of the country's parliament has been closed to the public. Politicians warned that some dangers were being overstated.
The Reichstag dome is a popular tourist destination
The German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere has said that security agencies are working to prevent a possible terror attack, but he criticized news organizations for their reporting on the threat, saying it was a danger in its own right.
Speaking on a German news talk show on Sunday evening, de Maiziere took pains to distance himself from "irresponsible speculation" about terror threats published by weekly news magazine Der Spiegel and other news outlets.
After de Maiziere had given a terror warning earlier in the week, Der Spiegel reported that al-Qaeda operatives were planning a bloody hostage-taking attack on the Reichstag, in Berlin, before the end of November. The Reichstag is the seat of German parliament.
On Monday, the glassed-in cupola of the Reichstag - a favorite tourist destination - was closed to the public, although pre-arranged group tours were still taking place.
Closing the Reichstag
But on Sunday, de Maiziere warned, "Speculation has a psychological effect in itself. It also spreads fear."
He assured the public that the government is "taking the threat seriously, without being completely sure" about what the threat is, or when an attack would be expected.
The government's terror warning on Wednesday was reportedly based on internal sources. Der Spiegel cited a jihadist who contacted the German authorities, as well as data from foreign intelligence sources, including the FBI. The interior ministry has not issued denials on the sources of the reports.
De Maiziere has said the security forces cannot guarantee absolute safety
Other conservative politicians jumped on the message of warning against spreading panic over the terror threats as well. On Sunday, Christian Democrat home affairs expert Wolfgang Bosbach told the Bild newspaper that: "We need the right balance between alertness and calm, and we shouldn't change our daily lives." He said the likelihood of having a traffic accident was higher than of being the victim of a terror attack, adding "nonetheless I get into my car, a bus or a train every day."
Increased security measures
For his part, de Maiziere told moderator Will that there was "no answer to how we have to act so as to completely avoid terrorism," nor was there any point in trying to placate terrorists.
"If we do what terrorists tell us - like immediately withdraw from Afghanistan, or introduce Sharia law in Germany, … even that might not stop them. We have to behave how we see fit."
De Maiziere's warning on Wednesday led to increased security at airports and train stations across Germany. For the few weeks prior to the alert, he had repeatedly played down a number of reports and warnings from the US about possible terrorist assaults in Europe.
Germany has not been hit by a major Islamist terror attack in the past decade, although there have been a number of planned attacks which were prevented or which failed. But German troops' engagement in Afghanistan has brought the country closer to the attention of Islamic radicals.
But now, German police say, the danger of an Islamist terrorist attack in Germany has never been more specific. The head of the German police force, Matthias Seeger, told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung newspaper that there have been a number of tip-offs from different sources.
On Tuesday, a parliamentary committee will be holding a special session to discuss the current threat level, Christian Democrat lawmaker Stefan Mueller told dpa news agency.
Author: Jennifer Abramsohn (dpa, Reuters)
Editor: Michael Lawton