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German police shut down shopping centre over terror threat fears

Sniffer dogs have been brought in to search for explosives.

Image: DPA/PA Images

GERMAN POLICE HAVE sealed off a major shopping centre in the central city of Essen citing the threat of a terror attack.

The country is on high-alert following scenes of carnage at a Christmas market in Berlin in December, when an Islamic State jihadist rammed a truck into a crowd of pedestrians, killing 12 people.

“The shopping centre will be closed all Saturday due to security concerns. The police have concrete information regarding a possible attack,” local police said in a statement published on social media.

Though there was no announcement of arms or explosives being found, police said two men had been picked up for questioning. Both men were arrested in the town of Oberhausen near Essen but later police said in a statement that the pair “are not suspects” in the case.

Security services quoted by the Bild newspaper described the threat as a potential multiple suicide bombing at the mall, one of the biggest in the country.

German police shuts down shopping centre after terror warning Source: DPA/PA Images

“Many agents are deployed onsite. This is a major operation,” a local police spokesman told AFP, indicating the lockdown included the 200-store Limbecker Platz in downtown Essen, nearby parking garages and an underground rail station.

Sniffer dogs were also been deployed at the site. Essen, which is in the industrial Ruhr region, has a population of approximately 500,000.

The police said they had been alerted to the threat by “another department” but no German agency has confirmed if it was involved.

Interior ministry spokesman Tobias Plate told AFP that the operation was being handled by the local police force but added that his ministry was in “constant touch” with the GTAZ, a joint counter-terrorism centre used by 40 internal security agencies.

Last July, a German-Iranian teenager who police say was obsessed with mass murderers, shot dead nine people at a Munich shopping mall before turning the gun on himself.

Domestic security officials estimate there are some 10,000 radical Islamists in Germany, with roughly 1,600 among them suspected of being capable of violence.

The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for attacks in Germany in the past year, including the murder of a teen in Hamburg, a suicide bombing in Ansbach and an axe rampage on a train in Wuerzberg that injured five.

© – AFP 2017

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