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Bush phones Schroeder on terror threat

Published on 24/03/2004

24 March 2004

BERLIN – President George W. Bush phoned German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder unexpectedly Tuesday evening for an update on the terrorism situation in Germany, a spokesman for the chancellor said Wednesday.

In a call that lasted about 15 minutes, the two leaders discussed the Madrid bombings and the threat to other European cities, said the spokesman, Thomas Steg.

Bush thanked Schroeder for his declaration of solidarity in the war against terrorism in the wake of the Madrid bombings. He also thanked the German leader for sending an additional 600 German peacekeeping troops to strife-torn Kosovo, bringing the German contingent there to 3,800.

The call came as German President Johannes Rau headed back to Berlin a day earlier than planned after warnings of an assassination attempt against him in Africa.

But Bush and Schroeder did not mention the Rau incident, and Interior Minister Otto Schily dismissed any immediate terrorist danger to Germany itself.

Berlin was to have been the target last year of an attack by al-Qaeda terrorists similar to the Madrid bombings, according to a published report.

The report in Focus news magazine, quotes federal investigators as saying bombs were to have been set off during anti-war protest marches in Berlin.

The plot was thwarted when German authorities arrested a suspected Islamic terrorist a year ago. The unidentified man allegedly had procured a number of mobile phones for use as timers for explosive devices – an identical modus operandi to the Madrid bombings.

Federal investigators believe the targets ironically were protesters opposed to the US led war against Iraq.

Investigators say that, with so many people in one place at one time, the effects of explosive devices would have been horrific.

Subject: German news