MUNICH – Germany received a tip hours before midnight that named militants from Iraq and Syria were planning attacks in Munich but police have been unable to find the suspects and are not even sure if they exist or are in the country, the Munich police chief said Friday.
Hubertus Andrae told a news conference that German officials had received a “very concrete” tip that suicide attacks were planned on New Year’s Eve at two train stations.
Police closed the stations about an hour before midnight, and reopened them hours later.
“We received names. We can’t say if they are in Munich or in fact in Germany,” Andrae said.
“At this point we don’t know if these names are correct, if these people even exist, or where they might be. If we knew this we would be a clear step further. We have no information that these people are in Munich or in Germany,” he added.
Bavaria Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann has said the tip, which media reports said came from French intelligence, indicated that the Islamic State militant group was behind the planned attacks.
The shutting down of the stations added to jitters in many capitals as Europe ushered in the New Year with heightened security after a year of militant attacks, the biggest of which killed 130 in Paris in November.
The stations that were shut were Munich’s central station and Pasing station, some 8 km (5 miles) away.
Andrae said the security alert level in Munich remained the same as it was before German authorities received the tip.
On their Twitter feed, Munich police said: “Good morning to those, who spent the night out in #munich! Thanks for staying calm and for your understanding concerning our measures.”
Police said they had received information that five to seven suicide bombers were planning to take part in the attack.
The Munich alarm followed days of security warnings in Europe. On Dec. 26, police in the Austrian capital Vienna said a “friendly” intelligence service had warned European capitals of the possibility of a shooting or bomb attack before New Year. That tip, too, had included the names of several suspects.
In Belgium, authorities on Wednesday called off the usual New Year’s Eve fireworks display in the capital, citing fears of a possible militant attack. Police said on Thursday they were holding three people for questioning over an alleged plot.
The U.S. Justice Department said on Thursday that a 25-year-old man accused of planning to attack a restaurant in upstate New York on New Year’s Eve had been arrested and charged with attempting to provide material support to the Islamic State group.
In New York City, police tightened security for the traditional New Year’s Eve dropping of the crystal ball in Times Square, where more than a million people hailed the arrival of 2016.