icon bookmark-bicon bookmarkicon cameraicon checkicon chevron downicon chevron lefticon chevron righticon chevron upicon closeicon v-compressicon downloadicon editicon v-expandicon fbicon fileicon filtericon flag ruicon full chevron downicon full chevron lefticon full chevron righticon full chevron upicon gpicon insicon mailicon moveicon-musicicon mutedicon nomutedicon okicon v-pauseicon v-playicon searchicon shareicon sign inicon sign upicon stepbackicon stepforicon swipe downicon tagicon tagsicon tgicon trashicon twicon vkicon yticon wticon fm
24 Dec, 2023 19:35

Police in Western Europe respond to Islamist attack threats

Security precautions have been ramped up around churches in Germany, Austria and Spain
Police in Western Europe respond to Islamist attack threats

Police in major cities across Western Europe have taken extra security precautions, particularly around churches, after receiving indications that an Islamist group was planning multiple terrorist attacks during the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.

Threats were reported over the weekend in Germany, where police searched the landmark Cologne Cathedral with bomb-sniffing dogs, and Vienna, where Austrian authorities beefed up security around churches and Christmas markets. Heightened security measures also were reported in Madrid.

“Given that terrorist actors throughout Europe are calling for attacks on Christian events, especially around December 24, the security authorities have taken the corresponding protection measures in public spaces,” Austrian police said in a statement on Saturday.

Cologne’s police chief, Michael Esser, said that although the threats identified in his city indicated an attack was allegedly being plotted for New Year’s Eve, “we are from this evening doing everything we can to ensure the safety of visitors of the cathedral on Christmas Eve.” Worshipers attending the Christmas Eve mass on Sunday were required to go through security screening before entering the cathedral.

Bild newspaper reported that special forces in Vienna and Germany’s Saarland state had arrested terrorism suspects in connection with the attack threats. Data storage devices were seized during the arrests of three suspects in Vienna.

Cologne Mayor Henriette Reker thanked police for their “quick and careful action.” She added, “We Cologne residents will not allow ourselves to be intimidated by crazy terrorists. Our cathedral has stood proudly in the heart of our city since 1248 and also embodies the self-confidence of us Cologne residents. Everything is being done by the city of Cologne and the police to protect the people of Cologne and our cathedral in the next few days.”

Herbert Reul, interior minister for Germany’s North Rhine-Westphalia state, told Bild that the threat of terrorism is higher than it has been “for a long time” during this year’s holiday season. He emphasized that all possible precautions are being taken, and he urged people to celebrate Christmas as they normally do. “Fear is the currency of terrorists,” he said. “We mustn’t add value to them.”

Authorities in Western Europe and the US have warned of rising terrorism threats triggered by the Israel-Hamas war. The Spanish Interior Ministry announced earlier this month that it would be ramping up security measures during the Christmas holiday season.

On Sunday, Spain’s National Police posted a photo on X (formerly Twitter) of officers and police dogs standing outside the iconic Cathedral Church of Saint Mary in Murcia. The accompanying message told residents to “just worry about enjoying” the holiday, as police would see to “the rest.”