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Police in Germany investigate possible explosive found near Christmas market

“I’ve always felt safe in Potsdam. Now that feeling of security is ebbing away.”

Police forces cordon off the streets around a Christmas market in the inner city of Potsdam in Germany.
Police forces cordon off the streets around a Christmas market in the inner city of Potsdam in Germany.
Image: DPA/PA Images

GERMAN POLICE ARE investigating a possible explosive device close to a Christmas market in Potsdam, reviving fears of a repeat of last year’s terror attack that struck at the height of the festive season.

The device was uncovered in a package found at a pharmacy just off the Christmas market in central Potsdam, a picturesque city near Berlin.

Police said a pharmacist had sounded the alert after finding a canister with wires inside the package.

Investigators initially said in a tweet that “suspicions of an unconventional explosive device have been confirmed.”

But Brandenburg interior minister Karl-Heinz Schroeter later said a probe was still ongoing to determine “whether the device was actually capable of causing an explosion or not.”

Police found a canister filled with nails and powder, batteries and wires in the package, as well as a powerful firework of a type not allowed in Germany.

But investigators added that there was no sign of a detonator inside.

After clearing parts of the city centre and Christmas market, bomb disposal units defused the device shortly before 5pm.

Schroeter said officers were combing the area to check if other similar packages had been deposited.

“We are now carrying out searches because the package was delivered, apparently, and possibly other packages had been delivered nearby the Christmas market. That’s why we are only at the beginning of our job,” he said.

Suspicious item in Potsdam Source: DPA/PA Images

What is clear is that the scare, coming on the eve of the first Advent weekend, has sparked fear, said Schroeter. “We can see that it’s not possible to hold a proper Christmas celebration,” he said.

Christmas market organiser Peter Klemm told broadcaster NTV: “It’s not easy when you’re on the scene, we’re shocked. But the people here understand what’s going on and take the measures very seriously.”

“I’ve always felt safe in Potsdam. Now that feeling of security is ebbing away,” local resident Ingeborg Reetz told mass-market daily Bild.

Meanwhile, baker Erich Schroeter had kept his shop open for people displaced by the evacuation.

“We wouldn’t just put people out into the cold,” he said.

Germany has been on high alert for possible jihadist attacks after last December’s deadly assault at a Christmas market in central Berlin.

The attacker, Tunisian asylum seeker Anis Amri, hijacked a truck and murdered its Polish driver before killing another 11 people and wounding dozens more by ploughing the heavy vehicle through the market.

Four days later, while on the run, he was shot dead by Italian police in Milan.

© AFP 2017

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