German police have closed down a shopping center in the city of Essen, in the country’s west, after receiving “concrete indications about a possible attack,” Reuters reported Saturday.
Police said “the current state of our investigations points to the threat being exclusively at the shopping center.”
The shopping center and the adjacent parking lot stayed closed Saturday morning as over a hundred police officers searched the compound. Several officers scoured the inside of the building to bring out early morning cleaning staff.
“As police, we are the security authority here and have decided to close the mall,” police spokesman Christoph Wickhorst said, adding that they had been tipped off late Friday by other security agencies. He did not want to provide further details because of the ongoing investigation.
The German news agency dpa reported that the downtown mall, one of the biggest in the region, would be closed for the entire day.
The alert came two days after German police arrested an ax-wielding attacker believed to be suffering from mental health issues after he injured seven people at the main train station in Dusseldorf.
The 36-year-old man was from the former Yugoslavia, according to police, who said he suffered serious injuries when he jumped from a bridge while trying to escape.
The motive for the attack was unclear.
German authorities have been on alert for terror attacks, especially since an assault claimed by the Islamic State group in December when a hijacked truck ploughed into a Berlin Christmas market, killing 12 people.
The attack suspect, 24-year-old Tunisian Anis Amri, was shot dead by an Italian police officer in Milan days later.
Germany’s domestic security service estimates that the number of radical Islamists in Germany rose above 9,000 this year, from some 3,800 in 2011. About 550 are considered capable of a violent attack.
In 2016 Germany was rocked by a spate of attacks committed by young extremists — including some who were among the more than one million migrants and refugees who arrived in the past two years.
In February, 15-year-old German-Moroccan girl Safia S., previously known for singing religious songs on YouTube, stabbed a police officer in the neck with a kitchen knife, badly wounding him.
In April, three 16-year-olds set off a bomb in Essen that left three people injured at a Sikh community wedding.
In July, a 17-year-old Afghan refugee wounded five people in an axe rampage on a train before police shot him dead.
Days later a 27-year-old rejected Syrian asylum seeker blew himself up outside a music festival, wounding 15 people. Both July attacks were claimed by IS.