German police have promised to step up their patrols of Christmas markets in the country after a bomb scare in the city of Potsdam on Friday caused the Christmas market there to be evacuated. Speaking to the Deutschlandfunk radio station on Saturday the state chairman of the police union in Brandenburg, Andreas Schuster, said that a controlled explosion was carried out on a device discovered in a nearby pharmacy that contained wires, nails and powder. However, police are treating it as a fake bomb due to the lack of a detonator necessary to set off the device.
Investigators are also uncertain as to whether the intended target of the device was the market or the pharmacy in which it was found. “According to evidence so far, our investigators think it is rather unlikely that the Christmas market was the target,” Potsdam police said in a tweet.
Barriers have been erected at the entrances to Christmas markets around the country this year to prevent a potential repeat of last year’s attack on the market in Berlin when a man drove a truck into the crowds, leaving 12 people dead and 60 injured. The attack was carried out by a Tunisian Islamist who escaped the scene only to be shot dead in Milan by police four days later. It was one of several attacks in Germany that the ISIS terrorist group claimed responsibility for over the past few years. Authorities have warned that the threat of such attacks remains high both in Germany and elsewhere in Europe.
Last week, 500 German police officers raided eight apartments in the cities of Hanover, Kassel and Leipzig and arrested six Syrian migrants suspected of planning terrorist attacks and membership of ISIS. German newspaper Die Welt reported that mobile phones, laptops and documents were also seized during the raid. The men had used fake papers to enter the country and had applied for asylum before being reported to the police by other refugees.