No explosives near Germany vs Netherlands match - police

France invokes EU mutual assistance clause seeking military help for first time

German police have stormed more houses in a town near the western city of Aachen in an operation linked to the attacks in Paris which killed at least 129 people. Video: Reuters

 

The Germany vs Netherlands friendly soccer match has been cancelled amid security concerns.

Hanover stadium, which was due to host the match, was evacuated.

The match in Hanover was due to begin at 7.45pm GMT, but a security alert saw the police step in at about 6pm to prevent it going ahead.

Police also evacuated Hanover’s TUI multi-purpose arena where a concert was about to start.

A train station in the city centre was also partially closed.

Hanover’s police chief said authorities had “concrete information” about a bomb threat.

German police have found no explosives and made no arrests in Hanover following the threat, the Lower Saxony interior minister said.

“There have been no arrests so far. As for the question of whether explosives were found, I can tell you that, as for now, no,” Boris Pistorius said during a news conference in the west German city.

Dutch newspaper Telegraaf reported that a suspicious package was found that was later shown to be harmless.

A local reporter had earlier said that German authorities discovered one explosive device that was meant to be detonated inside the soccer stadium and a second suspicious device at a train station.

Chancellor Angela Merkel and members of her cabinet were scheduled to attend the match in a show of solidarity following the Paris terror attacks.

After the threat, both the German and the Dutch teams were rushed to a secure undisclosed location, before the hosts left individually for their homes and the visitors for the airport.

Second suspect

Meanwhile, French police have said that they are now seeking a second suspect who was directly involved in the Paris attacks that killed at least 129 people.

A manhunt was already underway in France and Belgium for one of the attackers involved in shootings and bomb attacks on restaurants, a music hall and a sports stadium in the Paris region.

The brother of the fugitive Salah Abdeslam made a TV appeal for him to turn himself in.

Mohamed Abdeslam, who spoke to French TV station BFM, said his brother was devout but showed no signs of being a radical Islamist.

He said: “Of course I call on him to turn himself over to the police. The best would be for him to give himself up so that justice can shed all the light on this.”

Two Belgians have been charged with complicity in terror attacks after driving Abdeslam from the French capital to Brussels early on Saturday.

A lawyer for one of the men told Belgian broadcaster RTBF that French police had halted their car three times on their route from Paris, but had failed to stop him.

German police had arrested seven people, at least three of them foreign citizens, on Tuesday in an operation linked to the militant attacks last Friday in Paris.

The arrests had been made in Alsdorf, a small town near Aachen close to Germany’s border with Belgium and the Netherlands.

A special police response unit were said to have overpowered two women and one man outside job centre in the town after receiving leads.

However, German authorities have released the seven people.

“There is no reason that they continue to be detained,” a police spokeswoman said.

“According to the investigation they are not the people we are looking for.”

Military assistance

France’s defence minister said 10 warplanes were targeting Islamic State’s Syrian stronghold of Raqqa for the third consecutive day and vowed that the campaign against the group would intensify in the coming days.

The new strikes come after reports that France had destroying a command post and training camp in Raqqa earlier on Tuesday.

The French defence minister confirmed that Russian missiles hit Raqqa on Tuesday

Russian president Vladimir Putin has ordered the Russian navy to establish contact with a French naval force headed by an aircraft carrier in the region and to treat them as allies.

“We need to work out a plan with them of joint sea and air actions,” Mr Putin told military chiefs.

The Kremlin said in a separate statement that Putin and his French counterpart Francois Hollande had spoken on the phone on Tuesday and agreed to boost coordination of their military actions in Syria.

Mr Hollande is due in Moscow on November 26th to discuss the fight against Islamic State there.

Military help

France invoked the European Union’s mutual assistance clause for the first time on Tuesday, asking its partners for military help and other aid in missions in the Middle East and Africa after the Paris attacks.

The unexpected move to look to the European Union for help, rather than the US-led Nato alliance, requires all of the bloc’s 28 members to provide “aid and assistance”, which defence minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said meant taking some of the burden off France as Europe’s most active military power.

“France cannot do everything, in the Sahel, in the Central African Republic, in the Levant and then secure its national territory,” Le Drian told a news conference during a meeting of EU defence ministers in Brussels, where he invoked the EU’s Article 42.7 mutual assistance clause.

More details will be discussed between France and individual EU governments, said EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini.

The clause is not strictly the same as Nato’s mutual defence clause that considers an attack against one ally as an attack against all, but the article can be invoked the case of “armed aggression” on any EU country.

US secretary of state John Kerry met with Hollande on Tuesday morning, where he said Islamic State is losing territory in the Middle East and the Western-backed coalition is making inroads against the group.

“The level of cooperation could not be higher. We agreed to exchange more information and I’m convinced that over the course of the next weeks, Daesch will feel greater pressure.

“They are feeling it today. They felt it yesterday. They felt it in the past weeks. We gained more territory. Daesch has less territory,” he said, referring to the Arabic acronym for Islamic State.

Mr Kerry confirmed Mr Hollande would travel to Washington next week to meet US president Barack Obama.

Dáil statements

In a statement in the Dáil on Tuesday, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said: “My thoughts are with the hundreds of people who were injured in Friday’s attacks, many critically.

“This includes an Irish citizen, who is receiving assistance through our Embassy in Paris.

“The ties that bind our two countries are strong, long-standing and unwavering. Our shared democratic values and the shared way of life that we treasure will not bend in the face of terrorism.

“We must not allow this tragedy to deflect us in finding a balanced and humane approach, to work to find a solution in Syria, and to the migration crisis.”

Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald said in the Dáil on Tuesday that “what was under attack last Friday night was the freedoms we enjoy and democracy itself.

“The people who carried out the attacks despise those freedoms and hate the values we hold so dear. They want to impose on us all a dark, tyrannical world.

“Because of the freedoms we enjoy democratic societies cannot impose the type of measures which would be necessary to ensure such attacks can never take place.

“To attempt to do so would be handing a victory to those who seek to terrorise us.

“What is important is that we take all reasonable and proportional steps to try and counter the activities of those who seek to terrorise us.”

Agencies