Arson attack thwarted at Berlin rail station: police

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German authorities said they thwarted an arson attack on the railway outside Berlin's main station Monday and suspected a political motive.

Federal police said that railway personnel found several bottles of flammable liquid in a tunnel about 200 metres (660 feet) from the main station building along with "incendiary objects".

The discovery came hours after an arson attack on the rail line between Berlin and the northern city of Hamburg early Monday morning which led to major travel delays affecting thousands of passengers.

A leftist group claimed responsibility for setting cable ducts ablaze, saying they had acted in protest against the German military's deployment in Afghanistan, now entering its 10th year.

"We also suspect a political motive in the Berlin main station case," a spokesman for the federal police said, adding that the flammable devices in both incidents had been similar in construction.

National rail company Deutsche Bahn condemned the early-morning attack in a statement and said it was working with authorities to ensure the safety of passengers.

"According to the claim of responsibility, our customers are being made to pay the price for the German military's Afghanistan mission," company security chief Gerd Neubeck said in a statement. "That is absolutely reckless."

He said it was impossible to fully ensure 34,000 kilometres (21,000 miles) of rail lines against "extremist violence" but noted that the company had tightened security since attacks in February and May in the Berlin area.

Left-wing radicals claimed responsibility for both acts of sabotage.

© 2011 AFP

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