Sunday 19 November 2017

Borussia Dortmund explosions: Police probe 'Islamist' letter 'in name of Allah' but also looking at a second letter

A camera man films Dortmund's team bus after it was damaged in an explosion before the Champions League quarterfinal soccer match between Borussia Dortmund and AS Monaco in Dortmund yesterday
A camera man films Dortmund's team bus after it was damaged in an explosion before the Champions League quarterfinal soccer match between Borussia Dortmund and AS Monaco in Dortmund yesterday

Danny Boyle

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

The letter also mentioned Germany's deployment of Tornado reconnaissance missions as part of an international coalition battling Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil), according to local media.

However, German investigators are also understood to be examining a second letter of responsibility from an anti-fascist group.

The blasts injured Dortmund player Marc Bartra and came as the team bus set off for the match against Monaco on Tuesday evening.

Police said they were working on the assumption that the blasts were directed at the Dortmund team and caused by "serious explosive devices," which might have been hidden in a hedge near a car park.

The local police force - Polizei Nordrhein-Westfalen Dortmund - held a joint late-night press conference along with the football club and the Dortmund public prosecutor.

Police chief Gregor Lange said, in quotes reported by Bild: "This evening at 19:15 there were three explosions in the surroundings of the BVB hotel.

"We must start from (the position this was) a targeted attack on BVB's team."

Heavy security will be in place in Germany for a rescheduled Champion League football match on Wednesday.

"The stadium and the surrounding area remain the focal point for police," added Lange.

"We're preparing a major police presence for tomorrow and will do everything humanly possible to ensure the match can take place safely."

The police earlier said in a statement that the explosives "may have been hidden in a hedge near a parking lot".

Monaco fans left facing an extra night in Germany were offered accommodation by Dortmund fans via the hashtag #bedforawayfans on social media, while the club said on Twitter that all their supporters staying in Dortmund on Tuesday night would be reimbursed up to 80 euros (£68) by the club.

The French club added in a statement: "Faced with this difficult situation, AS Monaco wishes to express its full support to the Borussia Dortmund team and all the components of the club."

Goalkeeper Roman Burki was sitting at the back of the team bus alongside Bartra, and told Swiss newspaper website how events unfolded.

Burki said: "We left the hotel at 7:15pm and went down the street. The bus turned down the main street, and there was a giant explosion.

"I was sitting in the back row next to Marc Bartra, who was hit by fragments of the broken glass.

"After the bang, we all ducked in the bus and those who could threw themselves to the ground. We did not know what had happened.

"The police were quick on the scene, and we were safe.

"We're all shocked - nobody thought of a football match in this moment."

Dortmund chief executive Hans-Joachim Watzke admitted the squad were shaken after 26-year-old Bartra, who arrived from Barcelona last summer, had to be taken to hospital.

He said in a statement: "An explosive strike on the bus was carried out immediately after the departure from the hotel.

"Three explosive devices were placed and triggered on the edge of the road.

"The whole team is in shock. We have to get through this. It will not be easy for the players. I hope that the team will somehow be able to return to the field.

"Borussia Dortmund is especially strong in extreme situations. Everyone will come even closer together and I'm sure the team will feel this."

The decision to postpone was made after a meeting held at the stadium between European football's governing body UEFA, representatives of the two clubs and local authorities.

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin was "deeply disturbed" by events in Dortmund and backed the decision to reschedule the match.

He said in a statement: "I was deeply disturbed by the explosions which occurred in Dortmund. The decision taken to postpone the UEFA Champions League match between Borussia Dortmund and AS Monaco was the correct one since we must always prioritise the safety and security of all fans, team officials and players."

The Dortmund players returned to their hotel following the explosions.

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