German police probe possible Islamist link to blasts that hit Dortmund football team bus

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 12 April, 2017, 4:14pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 12 April, 2017, 10:57pm

German police are probing a possible Islamist link to three explosions that rocked the Borussia Dortmund football team bus, after a letter found at the scene referred to the Berlin Christmas market attack.

The letter “claims responsibility for what happened,” prosecutor Sandra Luecke had said late Tuesday, telling journalists that “its authenticity is being verified.”

Luecke did not give details of its content, but national media citing unnamed sources said it referred to the Berlin attack in December claimed by the Islamic State group that killed 12 people.

It also mentioned Germany’s deployment of Tornado reconnaissance missions as part of an anti-IS international coalition, they reported.

The daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung also said that the letter might be a deliberate attempt by the perpetrators to mislead investigators.

Three explosive devices went off about 7.15pm local time in Dortmund’s Höchstem district, approximately 10km from the club’s stadium, where they were due to play a Champions League quarter-final against Monaco.

The explosions broke some of the vehicle’s windows. The defender Marc Bartra was injured by shards of glass and was taken to hospital. He was due to undergo surgery on his injured arm to repair a fracture and remove shrapnel.

Dortmund police tweeted: “After the initial investigation, we assume that this was an attack with serious explosives.”

A spokesman later told a press conference they were treating the incident as a “targeted attack on Borussia Dortmund’s team” and said a fourth, undetonated device was found in the vicinity of the team hotel.

Borussia Dortmund’s chief executive, Hans-Joachim Watzke, said the coach carrying the players had only just left their hotel and turned on to the road where the explosive devices were hidden behind a hedge.

“Bartra was injured, on his hand and his arm, but nothing that would be life-threatening,” Watzke said.

“The team is in complete shock. Our task is to process this experience, because the match is taking place in less than 24 hours. That’s our job.”

The players were escorted from the coach by police, who also used drones and sniffer dogs to search for further explosives.

Germany’s best-selling Bild daily quoted anonymous sources saying that investigators were hunting for a likely getaway car used by the attacker.

The vehicle had foreign car plates, said the newspaper, which also added that police believed the explosives were a particular type of pipe-bomb.

The Dortmund goalkeeper Roman Bürki told Swiss newspaper Blick: “I was sat in the back row next to Marc Bartra, who was hit by the shards of the burst back window. After the bang everyone in the bus got their heads down. We didn’t know whether there would be more. The police arrived quickly, sealed everything off. We are all in shock.”

Bartra, a Spain international who has been based in Germany with last season’s Bundesliga runners-up Dortmund since last summer, is no stranger to the impact of terrorism on football. In November 2015, a Belgium-Spain friendly was called off owing to concerns after the Paris terror attacks. At the time Bartra told reporters: “If we’re going, it’s because it’s safe. We’re calm.”

The Guardian, Agence France-Presse, Reuters