12 March 2004
BERLIN – German officials warned Friday that if al-Qaeda turned out to be responsible for the Madrid bombings Germany could be facing heightened security threats.
“This would be a new situation,” said German Interior Minister Otto Schily in an ARD TV interview.
“If it’s al-Qaeda then we have an additional problem in Germany,” said Dieter Wiefelspuetz, domestic policy spokesman of Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder’s Social Democratic Party in parliament.
Schily stressed, however, that his ministry did not have any concrete new threats and that it still seemed likely the Basque separatist group ETA had carried out the Madrid attacks.
Interior ministry spokesman Rainer Lingenthal said Germany was already on a high state of alert and that no additional anti-terror measures were necessary.
Schily’s comments came after a group linked to al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for the Madrid train bombings in a warning sent to the London-based Arabic newspaper Al-Quds al-Arabi which also pledged new attacks on the United States.
The Madrid blasts Thursday killed at least 198 people and left about 1,500 injured.
A spokesman for German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said the attacks would likely be on the agenda of the European Union summit in Brussels later this month.
“The goal was apparently to kill as many people as possible and this makes the whole barbarism clear,” said spokesman Thomas Steg, adding that a high-level German delegation would attend services for the victims in Madrid.
Germany’s parliament held a brief memorial service Friday for the victims and the government ordered all flags to fly at half-mast.
“Terrorism is getting closer,” said Parliamentary President Wolfgang Thierse.
Meanwhile, a debate in Germany on whether to give the armed forces a role in domestic security matters heated up following the Madrid blasts.
Defence Minister Peter Struck has ruled out deploying troops within Germany but opposition conservatives are calling to allow the Bundeswehr – the combined armed forces – to take part in homeland security.
(Expatica – Spain : for full coverage of the Madrid bombings and their aftermath)
Subject: German News