German police confirm first arrest and warn suspected terrorist attack on Borussia Dortmund bus could have been far more serious

Ed Malyon
The Independent
German police confirm first arrest and warn suspected terrorist attack on Borussia Dortmund bus could have been far more serious
German police confirm first arrest and warn suspected terrorist attack on Borussia Dortmund bus could have been far more serious

German police have confirmed that one person has been arrested as part of the investigation into a suspected terrorist attack on the Borussia Dortmund coach.

Frauke Kohler, a spokeswoman for the Bundeskriminalamt, also revealed that they were fortunate to not be dealing with any casualties after shrapnel was found lodged in other areas of the bus.

“These explosives contained metal shards – we can be happy that nothing worse happened.

“One of the metal shards in the explosive remained lodged in a seat headrest. It could have been worse.

“Two suspects from the Islamist spectrum have become the focus of our investigation. Both of their apartments were searched, and one of the two has been detained.

“We are treating this incident as a terrorist attack,” she said before adding, “an Islamic background is possible”.

Ms Koehler revealed that three letters containing the same text found near the site of the blasts indicated that the attacker had links to so-called Islamic State.

She said: “Among other things they demand the withdrawal of [German] tornado fighter jets from Syria and, I quote, ‘the closure of Ramstein airbase’.”

Investigators have since said the letter may have been an attempt to mislead authorities over the true identity of those behind the attack, according to Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper. The letter, written in German, is reported to have started with the words: “In the name of Allah, most gracious, most merciful.”

A possible second letter from the anti-fascist scene claiming responsibility for the attack is also being examined by investigators, according to Focus Online magazine.

The explosions occurred shortly before the Champions League clash at Signal Iduna Park around 7.15pm local time on Tuesday night, smashing some of the vehicle’s windows and leaving Spanish defender Marc Bartra with an injury to his hand and arm. He later underwent surgery for a broken wrist.

A police officer, who had been travelling on a motorbike in front of the bus, was also injured. He is said to be suffering from blast trauma and shock.

Dortmund police spokesperson Sven Schönberg told BBC Radio4’s Today programme that police “suppose that these explosive materials were hidden in the bushes near a street where the bus drove by”, and that investigators were working to verify the letter found at the scene.

He said the cancelled Champions League game would go ahead on Wednesday night with increased security planned to protect the teams and their fans.

Borussia Dortmund chief executive Hans-Joachim Watzke has also urged his players to show their club does not bend to “terror and hatred” in an emotional dressing-room address.

Watzke admitted the bomb attack had left the team needing to come to terms with the “incomprehensible” very quickly.

And he said that when the team took to the Westfalenstadion pitch for the rearranged quarter-final first leg against Monaco they would be playing “for everyone – no matter whether Borussia [Monchengladbach], Bayer [Leverkusen] or Schalke supporters”.

Watzke said in a statement on the club website: “The BVB family was always especially strong when it had to cope with difficult situations. This is perhaps the most difficult situation that we have faced in the past decades. I am sure that we will show ourselves as a strong and united BVB like never before.

“We do not just play for us today. We play for everyone – no matter whether Borussia, Bayer or Schalke supporters. We want to show that terror and hatred can never dictate our actions. And of course we play for Marc Bartra, who wants to see his team win.

“We ask all BVB fans to support our team today with total energy for 90 minutes. This team had to process the incomprehensible in a short space of time. We should all help you to come to terms with it.

“I just appealed to the team in the changing room to show society that we do not bend before terror.”

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