Borussia Dortmund blasts: suspect 'from Islamist spectrum' detained

Kate Connolly in Berlin and Philip Oltermann in Dortmund
Police secure the Borussia Dortmund training ground before the postponed match against AS Monaco. Photograph: Martin Meissner/AP

German police investigating a pipe bomb attack on a bus transporting the Borussia Dortmund football team to a Champions League match have detained one suspect and are searching for another, both described by prosecutors as having links to “the Islamist spectrum”.

The suspects are believed to be a 25-year-old Iraqi man from the western city of Wuppertal and a 28-year-old German man from Fröndenberg, 25 miles (40km) east of Dortmund. At least one of them is believed to have been in the vicinity at the time of the attack on Tuesday night.

Three explosives used in the attack were hidden in a hedge and remotely detonated as the bus left the team’s hotel and headed for the stadium in Dortmund six miles (10 km) away for the quarter-final first leg match against AS Monaco.

Federal prosecutors, who took over the investigation after it became clear the football team had been deliberately targeted, said pipe bombs had exploded, showering their sharp metal contents over a 100-metre radius and smashing the windows at the back of the bus. Prosecutors said they were treating the incident as a terror attack.

The 26-year-old defender Marc Bartra was injured when shrapnel lodged into his arm.

hotel map and journey of the bus

The Spaniard, who had been sitting towards the back of the bus, underwent an emergency operation for a fractured radial bone on the wrist of his right arm. On Wednesday he posted on Instagram to say he was recovering well. A police officer accompanying the bus on a motorcycle patrol was also injured.

Frauke Köhler, a spokeswoman for prosecutors, said a piece of metal from one of the bombs had penetrated the headrest of one of the seats. “We can say it was lucky that nothing worse happened,” she said.

Players ducked when the explosions went off. Some threw themselves on to the floor.

Goalkeeper Roman Bürki, who was sitting near Bartra on the bus, told the Swiss newspaper Blick: “The bus turned on to the main road, when there was a huge bang – a proper explosion. I sat on the very back seat close to Marc Bartra who was hit by splinters from the shattered back window.”

“After the bang we all ducked down in the bus and whoever was able to lay down on the floor. We didn’t know if more was to happen. The police got there quickly and secured everything. We’re all shocked.”

bus seating plan

A spokesman for the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, said she was dismayed by the attack, which prompted authorities to postpone the match until Wednesday evening.

Some sports commentators were highly critical that the match was rescheduled so soon, arguing the players were still in deep shock.

But Dortmund’s chief executive, Hans-Joachim Watzke, said there was no alternative to holding the match less than 24 hours after the attack. “The tight schedule between the quarter- and semi-final [of the Champions League] leaves us with no alternative”. Players were said to have been given the option not to play.

Three claims of responsibility were made for the attack, suggesting a radical Islamic motive, an anti-fascist motive or a far-right motive. Köhler said there was serious doubt over the anti-fascist’s group’s claim, and suggested that although no conclusions had been drawn, more weight was being given by investigators to letters found close to the scene of the attack, all of which suggested it was the work of Islamic terrorists.

Ralf Jäger, the interior minister of North Rhine Westphalia state, which includes Dortmund, said the investigation was “looking in all directions” and that “we are still completely in the dark as to the background to this”. Jäger is still under pressure after the Berlin Christmas market attacker was able to slip through the net in his state, despite several alarm bells having been rung over his links to terror.

The correspondence claiming a radical Islamic motive said the attack had been carried out “in the name of Allah the gracious, the merciful one”. It made reference to the Christmas market attack and accused German tornadoes in operation in Syria of involvement in killing Muslims in the Islamic State caliphate. It also called for the closure of the US base at Ramstein in western Germany.

It warned that until German tornadoes were withdrawn from the military campaign against Isis and the US air force base was closed, “sports people, and other prominent people in Germany and other crusade nations will be put on an Islamic State death list”.

An online post by an anti-fascist group appeared to claim the attack had been a punishment for Borussia Dortmund’s failure to deal with its longstanding problem of far-right fans. But prosecutors said there was “considerable doubt” as to the post’s authenticity.

After being escorted away from the scene of the attack by armed police on Tuesday, the team and managers united again on Wednesday morning for a session at the Dortmund training ground to prepare for what some football commentators described as the most difficult task of their footballing careers.

“I have just delivered an appeal to the team in the changing rooms that they should show society that we will not be cowed by terror,” Watzke said later in the day.

“We are not playing for ourselves today,” he said. “We are playing for everyone, regardless of whether we’re Borussia, Bayer or Schalke [referring to rival teams]. We want to show that terror and hate will never determine our behaviour. And of course we’re playing for Marc Bartra who wants to see his team win.”

Bartra, who came to Dortmund from Barcelona for €8m (£6.4m) last year, is likely to be out of action for the rest of the season.

His parents, José Bartra and Montserrat Aregall, told Spanish television: “Marc’s doing well, even though his skull is buzzing. He told us we should stay calm because everything would be alright. The first thing he heard was a loud bang. First his head hurt, then his arm. He didn’t know what was going on. The bang made him dizzy for five minutes.”

Jäger urged fans heading to Wednesday night’s rescheduled game to expect longer-than-normal waiting times and to leave backpacks at home. Drones and sniffer dogs searched the stadium before the match.

Thousands of Dortmund supporters offered accommodation to AS Monaco fans who had expected to be travelling home on Tuesday night, to enable them to attend the rescheduled match. The offers were spread on social media under the hashtag #bedforawayfans.

Vadim Vasilyev, vice-president of AS Monaco, thanked German fans for their generosity on his club’s website. He described the attack as despicable and said: “Football should not be taken hostage by these individuals.”

Political figures were expected to attend the rescheduled match to show solidarity, including the justice minister, Heiko Maas, who tweeted: “We won’t let football be abused by cowardly criminals.”

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