The security authorities have received information about a possible attack plan on Cologne Cathedral. A church in Vienna was also a possible target, it was said on Saturday. The police in Cologne and Vienna announced on Saturday evening that they were increasing their security measures due to a dangerous situation. Previously it had Bild reported. Accordingly, several people are said to have been arrested in Austria, and there is also said to have been an arrest in Germany. This is consistent with information from South German newspaper.
The Cologne police justified the increase in their protective measures with a warning about the danger, without giving any details. The state security agency, which is active in politically motivated crimes, has started the investigation. The possible attack plans are said to come from an Islamist group, which, according to the dpa, could have connections to the branch of the “Islamic State” in Khorasan Province. How specific the attack plans were is still unclear. The police want to comment on the investigation on Sunday morning.
The information probably related to New Year’s Eve, but worshipers at Cologne Cathedral and tourists have to prepare for increased security standards on Christmas Eve. “In coordination with the security officer of the cathedral chapter, the cathedral will be searched with sniffer dogs after the evening mass and then locked,” said the head of the Cologne criminal police, Michael Esser, according to a statement. In the evening, police vehicles drove up to Cologne Cathedral, as dpa reporters observed.
A statement from the Vienna police previously said that the security authorities in Austria had increased their protective measures in view of calls for terrorist attacks against Christian events across Europe, especially on Christmas Eve. Due to a current risk assessment by the Austrian Office for the Protection of the Constitution, there is generally an increased risk situation during the Christmas holidays, the police said. As a precautionary measure, there will be increased surveillance of endangered places in Vienna and the federal states, including churches and Christmas markets. Civilian and uniformed forces with special equipment and rifles will therefore be deployed. The police explained that the terror alert level in Austria remains elevated. The additional precautionary measures serve to maintain general safety in Austria, it said.