Syrian, Iraqi militants said to have planned New Year attack in Munich

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Militants Were Said to Be Planning Attack in Germany - Police

MUNICH (Reuters) -- Germany received a tip hours before midnight that militants from Iraq and Syria were planning New Year attacks in Munich but police could not find the suspects and are not even sure if they exist or are in the country, the city's police chief said on Friday.

EARLIER: Train stations in big city evacuated over terror threat

Hubertus Andrae told a news conference that German officials had received a "very concrete" tip that suicide attacks were planned on New Year's Eve at two train stations.

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Munich terror threat
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Syrian, Iraqi militants said to have planned New Year attack in Munich
MUNICH, GERMANY - JANUARY 01: The entrance to Munich main station is closed on January 1, 2016 in Munich, Germany. According to Joachim Herrmann, Bavarian Secretary of the Interior, there was intelligence for an IS terror attack planned for new Year's eve in in at least two Munich railway stations. (Photo by Johannes Simon/Getty Images)
MUNICH, GERMANY - JANUARY 01: Police men guard the main entrance in front of Munich main station on January 1, 2016 in Munich, Germany. According to Joachim Herrmann, Bavarian Secretary of the Interior, there was intelligence for an IS terror attack planned for new Year's eve in in at least two Munich railway stations. (Photo by Johannes Simon/Getty Images)
MUNICH, GERMANY - JANUARY 01: A police woman speaks to concerned citizens in front of Munich main station on January 1, 2016 in Munich, Germany. According to Joachim Herrmann, Bavarian Secretary of the Interior, there was intelligence for an IS terror attack planned for new Year's eve in in at least two Munich railway stations. (Photo by Johannes Simon/Getty Images)
MUNICH, GERMANY - JANUARY 01: A police officer speaks to a group of young men in front of Munich main station on January 1, 2016 in Munich, Germany. According to Joachim Herrmann, Bavarian Secretary of the Interior, there was intelligence for an IS terror attack planned for new Year's eve in in at least two Munich railway stations. (Photo by Johannes Simon/Getty Images)
MUNICH, GERMANY - JANUARY 01: Riot police armed with machine guns controls the street in front of Pasing railway station on January 1, 2016 in Munich, Germany. According to Joachim Herrmann, Bavarian Secretary of the Interior, there was intelligence for an IS terror attack planned for new Year's eve in in at least two Munich railway stations. (Photo by Johannes Simon/Getty Images)
MUNICH, GERMANY - JANUARY 01: A riot police man armed with a machine gun controls the street in front of Pasing railway station on January 1, 2016 in Munich, Germany. According to Joachim Herrmann, Bavarian Secretary of the Interior, there was intelligence for an IS terror attack planned for new Year's eve in in at least two Munich railway stations. (Photo by Johannes Simon/Getty Images)
MUNICH, GERMANY - JANUARY 01: Police men guard the metro entrance in front of Munich main station on January 1, 2016 in Munich, Germany. According to Joachim Herrmann, Bavarian Secretary of the Interior, there was intelligence for an IS terror attack planned for new Year's eve in in at least two Munich railway stations. (Photo by Johannes Simon/Getty Images)
MUNICH, GERMANY - JANUARY 01: A police officer guards the southern gate to Munich main station on January 1, 2016 in Munich, Germany. According to Joachim Herrmann, Bavarian Secretary of the Interior, there was intelligence for an IS terror attack planned for new Year's eve in in at least two Munich railway stations. (Photo by Johannes Simon/Getty Images)
MUNICH, GERMANY - JANUARY 01: Riot police armed with machine guns controls the street in front of Pasing railway station on January 1, 2016 in Munich, Germany. According to Joachim Herrmann, Bavarian Secretary of the Interior, there was intelligence for an IS terror attack planned for new Year's eve in in at least two Munich railway stations. (Photo by Johannes Simon/Getty Images)
Police officers are seen walking down the stairs to a subway under the closed central station in Munich on January 1, 2016. German police said Thursday that they had 'indications that a terror attack' was being planned for New Year's Eve in the southern city of Munich, as they called on the public to avoid large gatherings and two key train stations. / AFP / Christof STACHE (Photo credit should read CHRISTOF STACHE/AFP/Getty Images)
Police officers in riot gear are seen guarding the entrance to the closed central station in Munich on January 1, 2016. German police said Thursday that they had 'indications that a terror attack' was being planned for New Year's Eve in the southern city of Munich, as they called on the public to avoid large gatherings and two key train stations. / AFP / Christof STACHE (Photo credit should read CHRISTOF STACHE/AFP/Getty Images)
Police officers in riot gear are seen guarding the entrance to the closed central station in Munich on January 1, 2016. German police said Thursday that they had 'indications that a terror attack' was being planned for New Year's Eve in the southern city of Munich, as they called on the public to avoid large gatherings and two key train stations. / AFP / Christof STACHE (Photo credit should read CHRISTOF STACHE/AFP/Getty Images)
Police officers are seen guarding the entrance to the closed central station in Munich on January 1, 2016. German police said Thursday that they had 'indications that a terror attack' was being planned for New Year's Eve in the southern city of Munich, as they called on the public to avoid large gatherings and two key train stations. / AFP / Christof STACHE (Photo credit should read CHRISTOF STACHE/AFP/Getty Images)
Police officers are seen guarding the entrance to the closed central station in Munich on January 1, 2016. German police said Thursday that they had 'indications that a terror attack' was being planned for New Year's Eve in the southern city of Munich, as they called on the public to avoid large gatherings and two key train stations. / AFP / Christof STACHE (Photo credit should read CHRISTOF STACHE/AFP/Getty Images)
MUNICH, GERMANY - JANUARY 01: Riot police armed with machine guns controls the street in front of Pasing railway station on January 1, 2016 in Munich, Germany. According to Joachim Herrmann, Bavarian Secretary of the Interior, there was intelligence for an IS terror attack planned for new Year's eve in in at least two Munich railway stations. (Photo by Johannes Simon/Getty Images)
MUNICH, GERMANY - JANUARY 01: Police men guard the metro entrance in front of Munich main station on January 1, 2016 in Munich, Germany. According to Joachim Herrmann, Bavarian Secretary of the Interior, there was intelligence for an IS terror attack planned for new Year's eve in in at least two Munich railway stations. (Photo by Johannes Simon/Getty Images)
MUNICH, GERMANY - JANUARY 01: A police man gives explanations to worried people in front of Pasing railway station on January 1, 2016 in Munich, Germany. According to Joachim Herrmann, Bavarian Secretary of the Interior, there was intelligence for an IS terror attack planned for new Year's eve in in at least two Munich railway stations. (Photo by Johannes Simon/Getty Images)
MUNICH, GERMANY - JANUARY 01: Riot police armed with machine guns controls the street in front of Pasing railway station on January 1, 2016 in Munich, Germany. According to Joachim Herrmann, Bavarian Secretary of the Interior, there was intelligence for an IS terror attack planned for new Year's eve in in at least two Munich railway stations. (Photo by Johannes Simon/Getty Images)
MUNICH, GERMANY - JANUARY 01: A police woman speaks to concerned citizens in front of Munich main station on January 1, 2016 in Munich, Germany. According to Joachim Herrmann, Bavarian Secretary of the Interior, there was intelligence for an IS terror attack planned for new Year's eve in in at least two Munich railway stations. (Photo by Johannes Simon/Getty Images)
Police officers in riot gear are seen guarding the entrance to the closed central station in Munich on January 1, 2016. Germany was on high alert as police hunted for up to seven people suspected of plotting a New Year's Eve suicide attack in Munich in the name of the Islamic State group. / AFP / Christof STACHE / ALTERNATIVE CROP (Photo credit should read CHRISTOF STACHE/AFP/Getty Images)
Munich's Police President Hubertus Andrae speaks during a press conference in Munich, southern Germany, on January 1, 2016. German police lifted an alert of an imminent attack in Munich, hours after two key train stations were evacuated over fears that a New Year suicide bomb assault was being planned. / AFP / Christof STACHE (Photo credit should read CHRISTOF STACHE/AFP/Getty Images)
A police officer patrols in front of a train at the main train station in Munich, southern Germany, on January 1, 2016. German police lifted an alert of an imminent attack in Munich, hours after two key train stations were evacuated over fears that a New Year suicide bomb assault was being planned. / AFP / Christof STACHE (Photo credit should read CHRISTOF STACHE/AFP/Getty Images)
Police officers patrol through a hall of the main train station in Munich, southern Germany, on January 1, 2016. German police lifted an alert of an imminent attack in Munich, hours after two key train stations were evacuated over fears that a New Year suicide bomb assault was being planned. / AFP / Christof STACHE (Photo credit should read CHRISTOF STACHE/AFP/Getty Images)
A police officer patrols in front of a train at the main train station in Munich, southern Germany, on January 1, 2016. German police lifted an alert of an imminent attack in Munich, hours after two key train stations were evacuated over fears that a New Year suicide bomb assault was being planned. / AFP / Christof STACHE (Photo credit should read CHRISTOF STACHE/AFP/Getty Images)
A police officer stands in front of the destination board at the main train station in Munich, southern Germany, on January 1, 2016. German police lifted an alert of an imminent attack in Munich, hours after two key train stations were evacuated over fears that a New Year suicide bomb assault was being planned. / AFP / Christof STACHE (Photo credit should read CHRISTOF STACHE/AFP/Getty Images)
Police officers patrol at the main train station in Munich, southern Germany, on January 1, 2016. German police lifted an alert of an imminent attack in Munich, hours after two key train stations were evacuated over fears that a New Year suicide bomb assault was being planned. / AFP / Christof STACHE (Photo credit should read CHRISTOF STACHE/AFP/Getty Images)
A police officer patrols in front of a train at the main train station in Munich, southern Germany, on January 1, 2016. German police lifted an alert of an imminent attack in Munich, hours after two key train stations were evacuated over fears that a New Year suicide bomb assault was being planned. / AFP / Christof STACHE (Photo credit should read CHRISTOF STACHE/AFP/Getty Images)
A police officer patrols in a hall of the main train station in Munich, southern Germany, on January 1, 2016. German police lifted an alert of an imminent attack in Munich, hours after two key train stations were evacuated over fears that a New Year suicide bomb assault was being planned. / AFP / Christof STACHE (Photo credit should read CHRISTOF STACHE/AFP/Getty Images)
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Police closed the central and Pasing stations about an hour before midnight, and reopened them hours later.

"We received names. We can't say if they are in Munich or in fact in Germany," Andrae said.

"At this point we don't know if these names are correct, if these people even exist, or where they might be. If we knew this we would be a clear step further. We have no information that these people are in Munich or in Germany," he added.

The alarm came as Europe entered the New Year under a state of heightened alert, seven weeks after Islamist militants killed 130 people in shootings and suicide blasts across Paris.

Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann said the Munich tip, which media reports said came from French intelligence, indicated that the Islamic State militant group was behind the planned operation.

Herrmann told reporters later on Friday that the police presence at the train stations had been reduced.

"We all know that there is a high risk of attacks in Europe and also here in Germany and Bavaria. But we don't have a concrete indication that there will be an attack today or tomorrow at a specific location," he said.

Thomas de Maiziere, interior minister in the federal government of Chancellor Angela Merkel, said: "The situation in Europe and also in Germany remains serious in the New Year. Security forces anticipate the high threat of international terrorism to persist."

See social reactions of the terror threat in Munich:

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Terror threat in Munich - social
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Syrian, Iraqi militants said to have planned New Year attack in Munich
JUST IN: Train stations in Munich evacuated over "imminent" terror attack https://t.co/NUxPUmAR8r https://t.co/ZX5UfhJCVi
MORE: Munich Police evacuate two train stations due to possible terror threat https://t.co/63WDbAehiU https://t.co/ja0d2Tppdv
Police in Munich urge people to avoid train stations after receiving 'serious' terror threat https://t.co/ff2roOUGc7 https://t.co/YBTIPjAq6B
Despite serious terror threats, Munich still rings in the new year with celebrations https://t.co/NTJPMzqHGN https://t.co/Xyf8zcmsGh
Police describe situation in Munich as a "serious, imminent threat" https://t.co/Wx6JbqD8xP https://t.co/siqlakgNQk
Heavy police presence at #Munich's main railway station amid imminent #terror threat. via @ARDde No incidents so far https://t.co/m5G7ZjikAN
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PREVIOUS WARNINGS

After the deadliest year for militant attacks in Europe since 2004, the build-up to the New Year had been overshadowed by arrests, security warnings, and the scaling-back of big traditional celebrations in Brussels, Moscow and Paris.

On Dec. 26, police in the Austrian capital Vienna said a "friendly" intelligence service had warned European capitals of the possibility of a shooting or bomb attack before New Year. That tip, too, had included the names of several suspects.

In Belgium, authorities on Wednesday called off the usual New Year's Eve fireworks display in the capital, citing fears of a possible militant attack. Police said on Thursday they were holding three people for questioning over an alleged plot.

Throughout the Munich alert, police kept up a stream of messages in several languages on Twitter, at times alternating incongruously between security warnings and New Year greetings.

"Good morning to those, who spent the night out in #munich! Thanks for staying calm and for your understanding concerning our measures," the latest message in English said.

The episode highlighted the dilemma facing authorities across the continent as they try to communicate potential threats without causing undue panic or disruption.

Herrmann, the Bavarian minister, urged the public to resist "being driven crazy by terrorists as we enter a new year in 2016. We need to take the danger seriously, but we can't let them change the way we live here in Germany."

Watch more coverage:

Terror Threat Doesn't Stop Munich's New Year

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