Blasts hit Borussia Dortmund team bus ahead of Champions League quarterfinal
The bombing of the bus carrying the Borussia Dortmund football team to their Champions League quarterfinal tie against Monaco in Germany was not believed to be an act of terrorism, authorities say.
German police have revealed they discovered a letter near the hotel where the bus was attacked as it departed for the stadium at the German club's home ground, Signal Iduna Park.
They have not disclosed the details of the letter other than to say it claimed responsibility for the attack at 7.15pm Tuesday (NZT 5.15am Wednesday). They had not verified its authenticity, however.
"At this time, it is still not clear what the real background to this act is," Dortmund police chief Gregor Lange said of the attack that injured one player, Marc Bartra, who had been taken to hospital.
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German state prosecutor Sandra Luecke said the letter found near the blast site was being examined.
"The investigation is at this time is for attempted manslaughter. A letter was found near the scene of the crime. The authenticity of the letter is being examined," she said.
Terrorism expert Davis Lewin told German news outlet Bild that the explosive devices appeared to have been "quite weak".
"That doesn't really fit in with the strategy of Islamist attacks, which until now have gone for large numbers of victims such as in the (truck) attacks in Nice and Berlin," he said.
"On the other hand, terror organisations like ISIS have called upon their followers to go out with home-made bombs. It wouldn't be the first time that something didn't work out the way it was planned. It's just too early to tell what's behind this attack."
Police said the attack involved "serious explosive devices" likely hidden in a hedge by the hotel's exit.
The explosives were detonated as the football team's bus departed the hotel with the blast's impact striking the rear of the vehicle, shattering windows and injuring Bartra.
Borussia Dortmund goalkeeper Roman Buerki said the team was in shock following the attack.
"There was a huge bang, literally an explosion," Swiss international Buerki said of the attack that left Spanish international Bartra injured.
"We're all shocked. Nobody thought about a football match in the minutes after that," Buerki told Swiss news outlet Blick.
The bus turned into the main street, when there was a huge boom, a real explosion," Sky News quoted Buerki as saying.
"I was sitting in the back row next to Marc Bartra, hit by fragments ... after the bang, we all ducked."
Buerki said Bartra was hit by shards of glass from the back window that broke in the explosion.
Bartra was taken to hospital. The 26-year-old was understood to have suffered a broken bone in his wrist and had glass fragments lodged in his arm.
He had joined Dortmund from Spanish club Barcelona last year in an €8-million (NZ$12m) deal.
At the time of the attack thousands of fans had already arrived at Signal Iduna Park in anticipation of the match. The stadium has a crowd capacity of 80,000.
News of the attack was broadcast on the stadium's big screen and many fans in the stands could be seen on their cell phones reading news reports.
A stadium spokesman told them "there is no reason for panic here at the stadium".
Supporters of Monaco, which plays in the French league, chanted "Dortmund, Dortmund" in sympathy for their German rivals.
The match was postponed until Wednesday (NZT Thursday) and club CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke said the team would now have a hard time preparing for it.
"It's our task now to digest this somehow because it's only 24 hours before we have to play. That's our job."
AS Monaco goalkeeper Danijel Subasic told Croatian news outlet 24sata: "We are currently in the stadium, in a safe place, but the feeling's horrible."
Dortmund residents were forthcoming in offering support to Monaco supporters. They were using social media to offer accommodation to stranded fans so they could stay the extra day to watch the match.
German Justice Minister Heiko Maas expressed support for Borussia Dortmund on Twitter.
"Shocking news. Our thoughts are with (Borussia Dortmund). You'll never walk alone!"
The Champions League clash between Borussia Dortmund and Monaco will be their first competitive match.
Uefa president Aleksander Ceferin also commented, saying: "I was deeply disturbed by the explosions which occurred tonight in Dortmund."
Fifa president Gianni Infantino said: "The thoughts of every one of us at Fifa are with the people of Dortmund, and the fans of both Borussia Dortmund and Monaco following today's troubling events."
Germany has seen matches postponed over security concerns before.
In Hannover, in November 2015, Germany's international football friendly against the Netherlands was cancelled just before kickoff after police feared an explosive device might be detonated at the stadium.
It came days after devices were detonated outside the Stade de France in Paris as France was playing Germany as part of a coordinated attack on the French capital.