Friday 24 January 2020

German music festival resumes after Friday evacuation amid terror threat

Visitors leave the Rock am Ring festival on Friday night (Thomas Frey/Dpa via AP/PA)
Visitors leave the Rock am Ring festival on Friday night (Thomas Frey/Dpa via AP/PA)

German authorities allowed a popular rock festival to resume on Saturday after a scare over people with suspected links to Islamic extremism prompted them to curtail its opening night.

Security officials said searches of the site had turned up no suspicious objects.

The organiser of the Rock am Ring festival said his event was "paying the price" for officials' failure to prevent the December attack on a Christmas market in Berlin.

Authorities shut down and cleared thousands of fans from the three-day festival on Friday evening, its opening night.

Organiser Marek Lieberberg said 86,000 people left the site within 15 minutes without incident.

Police found out on Friday that "at least one person of non-German origin on which there was police information in the area of terrorism had access" to secure areas at the event, Koblenz police chief Wolfgang Fromm said.

The backstage passes did not match those people's real names, he added.

That prompted officials to halt the festival at the Nuerburgring racing circuit in western Germany.

Three people were arrested on Friday night and their homes searched; all were released early on Saturday, though they remain under investigation.

Roger Lewentz, Rhineland-Palatinate state's interior minister, said "the safety of visitors stands above everything - that is the maxim, and there can be no other".

Following the recent attack in Manchester outside a concert, strict security controls were already in place and authorities had put in place 1,200 police officers.

After the evacuation Mr Lieberberg said "we are paying the price for the scandal over (Anis) Amri", who drove a truck into a Christmas market in December, killing 12 people.

The rejected Tunisian asylum seeker had been on authorities' radar but was not arrested.

Mr Lieberberg also called for Islamic extremists deemed dangerous to be arrested and said he wanted to see "demonstrations against these violent people".

"So far I haven't seen Muslims taking to the streets in their tens of thousands and saying, 'what are you doing?'" he added.


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