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World & Nation

Germany-Netherlands soccer match called off after ‘concrete’ threat of explosive device

Germany vs Netherlands

Two police officers patrol in the stands ahead of a Nov. 17 soccer match between Germany and the Netherlands in Hannover, Germany. The match was later canceled after officials said a suspicious object was found at the stadium.

(Julian Stratenschulte / European Pressphoto Agency)

A soccer game between Germany and the Netherlands was abruptly canceled Tuesday due to the serious threat of an attack at the stadium, officials said.

“We had concrete evidence that someone wanted to set off an explosive device in the stadium,” Hannover Police Chief Volker Kluwe told German TV.

Referring to another bomb threat about an hour beforehand that turned out to be a false alarm, Kluwe said, “After the first object turned out to be harmless, we got a tip that had to be taken seriously that an attack was being planned.”

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Lower Saxony Interior Minister Boris Pistorius, speaking at a late news conference, said no explosives had been found thus far, and no arrests had been made.

Pistorius said there was no confirmation of rumors that an explosive device was placed in an ambulance or another vehicle inside or outside the stadium.

Federal Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere told the same news conference that indications of a planned attack became stronger as the match approached, and that the game was called off at his recommendation.

De Maiziere said he could give few details because he needed to protect the source of the information, and because “part of these answers would upset the population.”

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Police shut down parts of the main Hannover train station and several subway stations while searching the area around the stadium. A jazz concert at which about 900 people were expected was also canceled.

Spectators had only just started entering the Hannover stadium when the evacuation order was given. The order affected mainly stadium staff, match workers, VIP guests and members of the media, authorities said.

Members of the German government, including Chancellor Angela Merkel, had not arrived, but had been scheduled to attend the friendly to send a signal that Germany wouldn’t bow to terrorism in the wake of the deadly Paris attacks on Friday.

At the time, Germany was playing France in a friendly in the Stade de France, where three suicide bombers blew themselves up, killing one bystander.

Announcements at the stadium in northern Germany advised people to go home in a calm manner, and that there was no danger. Most fans were still waiting outside when the order to evacuate came about an hour and a half before kickoff.

There were no signs of panic, with most fans seemingly accepting the decision with resignation. Police became more forceful with members of the media who attempted to stay near the stadium.

The German team’s press officer, Jens Grittner, said the team bus was redirected to a “safe place,” and that that was all he could say for the moment.

Security at the stadium was 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.

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