German Christmas market canceled after attack

A Christmas market at Munich’s famed Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church was canceled Friday amid concerns that Germany’s Christmas market flamboyance could clash with increasing scrutiny from authorities.

Organizers agreed to halt the outdoor market for at least a year amid the ongoing battle against right-wing extremism, a spokesperson said. Despite no evidence of attacks on the Christmas market by right-wing extremists so far, officials were nervous about a display that was heavy on ornamentation and singing.

“At the moment there is no indication that there will be any major attacks, but on the other hand, there have been many attacks against Christians around the world in recent weeks,” the spokesperson said.

There is a danger that the market’s embrace of festivals and lights “would become a mirror image of the perpetrators’ unacceptable crime,” the spokesman added.

A new crackdown by police in Bavaria, the state where Christmas markets have been held for centuries, was triggered by the 2016 attack on a Christmas market in Berlin, where 12 people were killed in the rampage. The attack occurred during a Sunday evening market that had been characterized by high attendance and festive atmosphere.

Merkel called the attacks a tragedy and said her country could never forget that. And that no attack would undermine the Christmas market as “a symbol of peace and freedom.”

Four Bavarian state police officers patrolling the Friedrichstrasse market in downtown Munich were attacked Thursday night when several persons from within the crowd attempted to provoke them, police said.

The suspects escaped and the officers suffered minor injuries. The incident raised the concern that right-wingers would retaliate against the police after the 2016 attack at the Berlin market.

The evidence that the right-wing militants planned the Berlin attack could not be collected because they left the scene, but media reports based on reports of local informants who knew about the attack led to the arrests in December of two suspected leaders of a right-wing terrorist cell, the so-called cell of four.

The police continued to have reason to be nervous. Police told news media they had warned that right-wing extremists planned to attack the market again this Christmas season. And late Thursday, a 16-year-old from the eastern state of Saxony was charged with insulting public officials and insulting members of the opposite sex on the basis of skin color after verbally attacking an unarmed police officer, according to media reports.

But authorities said there were no immediate indications that the ongoing attacks elsewhere in the world, including this week’s attack in the southern city of Nice by a radical Islamist who killed 84 people, could spur a similar attack on a market in Munich.

The attack Thursday came just before Christmas in a nation reeling from the triple killings Wednesday in Oslo, Norway, in which a 21-year-old gunman killed eight people at a political camp and then blew himself up as police closed in on him.

The attacks, as well as the attacks in Germany, have sparked renewed debate about the strained state of security in Europe. In Berlin, the attacks provoked Germany’s largest political protest in years, with one million people gathering on the capital’s streets Sunday evening in a demonstration largely directed at Merkel.

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