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Djibouti security ‘terror’ worry

Published on 25/03/2004

25 March 2004

BERLIN – German President Johannes Rau was compelled to cancel a trip to Djibouti because security forces in that country had been infiltrated by terrorists who intended to assassinate him, according to media reports Thursday.

Citing well-informed security sources, major newspapers and broadcasters said the president had been warned that his own life and the lives of people in his entourage would be in serious danger were he to go ahead with the Djibouti leg of his nine-day tour.

Rau was presented with a variety of scenarios, ranging from a roadside bomb set to go off as his motorcade drove past to a mortar attack on his plane at the airport, according to a report in Bild newspaper, quoting BKA federal investigators.

“Islamic terrorists are believed to have infiltrated the Djibouti security forces,” another source told Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper. That meant that terrorists would be tipped off even to last-minute alterations in Rau’s motorcade route.

The federal government declined to verify the reports. But Interior Minister Otto Schily told a television interviewer, “We reviewed all of the evidence and came to the conclusion that it was imperative to break off the trip.”

On his return to Berlin Wednesday evening, Rau said he had reluctantly cut short his nine-day tour of Africa “in order to protect others” who might have been injured in a possible terrorist attack.

Arriving at Berlin’s Tegel Airport, a grim-faced Rau said he had been willing to go ahead with the remainder of the itinerary despite intelligence evidence of a possible assassination attempt against him in Djibouti.

“In the interests of the safety of others I agreed on this course of action in altering the itinerary,” Germany’s figurehead president said. “I must stress that I personally sensed no threat to myself and I am confident that there is no cause for undue alarm by the people of our nation.”

A visit with German troops in Djibouti was to have closed out Rau’s nine-day Africa tour.

Instead, Rau flew directly from Dar es Salaam to Berlin Wednesday On his trip to Africa, he also visited Nigeria.

In the Tanzanian capital of Dar es Salaam Rau said that the first terrorist warnings were given two or three days ago, but the warnings were stepped up on Tuesday.

The government of Djibouti, however, denied Wednesday that Rau was under threat of a potential terrorist attack.

A spokesman for the Djibouti foreign affairs ministry said Wednesday that there were no grounds for cancelling the visit.

“We were not able to see any credible evidence that would point to such a threat,” foreign ministry spokesman Zyad Doualeh told the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).

Rau visited Nigeria and Tanzania during his Africa tour but cut short the trip before the Djibouti leg, scheduled for Wednesday, where troops of the US-led war on terror are stationed, and instead flew directly to Berlin.

Intelligence reports indicated Islamic terrorists were planning an assassination attempt on Rau in Djibouti.


Subject: German news