Borussia Dortmund bus attack: Detained 'Islamist' suspect cleared over blasts

'The investigation has not found evidence that the suspect took part,' the prosecutors' office said in a brief statement about the Dortmund bus attack.

AFP April 14, 2017 17:07:25 IST
Borussia Dortmund bus attack: Detained 'Islamist' suspect cleared over blasts

Dortmund: German federal prosecutors said Thursday they had cleared the sole suspect in custody for a bomb attack against the Borussia Dortmund football team bus of involvement.

The announcement marked a setback for investigators, who described Tuesday night's triple blasts as a "terrorist" act and said they were focusing on suspects in the "Islamist spectrum".

Borussia Dortmund bus attack Detained Islamist suspect cleared over blasts

Police stand near the team bus of Borussia Dortmund after it was damaged in an explosion. Getty

"The investigation has not found evidence that the suspect took part," the prosecutors' office said in a brief statement.

The Iraqi national, identified only as 26-year-old Abdul Beset A., is nonetheless being kept in provisional detention on suspicion of forming links to the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group from inside Germany.

Investigators had zeroed in on two suspects believed to belong to a large jihadist scene in the Ruhr region, after three identical letters were found at the site of the attack, which happened just before Dortmund were due to play against Monaco.

Only Abdul Beset A. was detained.

The letter demanded that Berlin stop its Tornado reconnaissance missions in the international anti-IS coalition and close the US air base at Ramstein, western Germany.

The Bild newspaper said police had placed Abdul Beset A. under surveillance for several months and believed, based on tapped telephone conversations, that he might be hiding explosives in his flat.

But a raid on his home Wednesday drew a blank, the report said.

Dortmund team officials have criticised the decision for the Champions League match to be rescheduled for just 24 hours after the attack, with the perpetrator or perpetrators still at large.

'Informed by text message'

State police chief Dieter Schuermann admitted there were no strong leads.

"We are looking for people who are prepared to kill," he said, quoted by DPA news agency.

The head of domestic intelligence for the region, Burkhard Freyer, said investigators had not ruled out the extreme-right, the far-left or hooligans of being behind the attack.

Bild also quoted a security expert, Peter Neumann, raising doubts about an IS link to the letter found at the scene because some of its formulations were atypical for the group.

The roadside blasts left Dortmund's Spanish international Marc Bartra and a policeman injured, with the bombs "containing metal pieces" detonating minutes after the team bus set off to play Tuesday night's match.

The quarter-final, first leg match was held in Dortmund just a day later in a packed stadium with tight security, with Monaco winning 3-2.

Dortmund coach Thomas Tuchel angrily accused European football federation UEFA of treating the bomb attack as if a "beer can" had been thrown and claimed they were informed by text message that they would have to play the game a day later.

- 'Security in freedom' -

Germany has been on high alert since a series of jihadist attacks last year, including a deadly Christmas market truck rampage in Berlin.

Chancellor Angela Merkel said "highly varying" laws for each region under Germany's federalist system were undermining the country's fight against terrorism.

She cited differing policies on surveillance as one weakness and called for their harmonisation, in an interview with the Funke media group.

"We know that we are threatened like many other countries and will do everything in our power to ensure security in freedom for our citizens, in close consultation between the federal government and the states," she said.

Before Wednesday's match, fans chanted "Bartra! Bartra!" in support for the injured player.

The defender will be out of action for a month after breaking his wrist in the attack, his team said Thursday.

Dortmund's chief executive Hans-Joachim Watze vowed his side would "play not only for ourselves".

"We will play for everyone," he said. "We want to show that terror and hate can never determine our actions."

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