HANNOVER, Germany (AP) — The friendly soccer game between Germany and the Netherlands was canceled at short notice due to the serious threat of an attack at the stadium on Tuesday.
“We had concrete evidence that someone wanted to set off an explosive device in the stadium,” Hannover police chief Volker Kluwe told German TV.
Referring to another bomb threat about an hour beforehand that turned out to be a false alarm, Kluwe said, “After the first object turned out to be harmless, we got a tip that had to be taken seriously that an attack was being planned.”
Spectators had only just started entering the Hannover stadium when the evacuation order was given, which affected mainly stadium staff, match workers, VIP guests, and media.
Members of the German government including Chancellor Angela Merkel had not arrived, but were scheduled to attend the match to send a signal that Germany wouldn’t bow to terrorism in the wake of the deadly Paris attacks on Friday.
At the time, Germany was playing France in a soccer friendly in the Stade de France, outside of which three suicide bombers blew themselves up, killing one bystander. The bombers sought unsuccessfully to enter the stadium. At least 129 people were killed in the coordinated attacks in the city.
Announcements at the stadium in northern Germany advised people to go home in a calm manner, and that there was no danger to fear. Most fans were still waiting outside when the order to evacuate came about an hour and a half before kickoff.
There were no signs of panic, with most fans seemingly accepting the decision with resignation. Police became more forceful with members of the media who attempted to stay beside the stadium.
Germany press officer Jens Grittner said the team bus was redirected to a “safe place,” and that was all he could say for the moment.
Security at the stadium was very tight, with police armed with machine guns and maintaining a very obvious presence in the city. Reporters arriving for the game were searched, while a sniffer dog was deployed to check their bags.
Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere was meeting with local counterpart Boris Pistorius late Tuesday when more background details were to be given at a news conference.
Tuesday’s friendly between Belgium and Spain was called off late Monday following a Belgian government recommendation. The Belgian Football Association said it was “in the context of a new elevated terrorist alert and the current pursuit of a suspect.”