Extortionist’s bomb threats shut down city

Police in Cologne are looking for a suspect on Wednesday after part of the city's centre was shut down by a bomb threat.

Extortionist's bomb threats shut down city
Police on the scene in Cologne on Tuesday evening. Photo: DPA

At 2.10pm on Tuesday a man called police demanding a large sum of money by Wednesday or else he would set off a bomb already placed in the Heumarkt district, it was reported.

According to the Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger (KSTA), at 3pm police started evacuating the area, including hotels on nearby streets. All public transportation to the area was also stopped.

"I was on my way home to Martinsgasse and was stopped by police on the street. They sent me back to the Christmas market at Heumarkt," Christian Horst told KSTA. "They didn't tell me why."

After hours of searching, authorities did not find any explosives and opened the area again, allowing people back in to the area at 7.30pm.

"Cologne police initially could not determine the seriousness of the bomb threat and thus took extensive action," a police speaker said following the incident. "Several officers were in the area. Special forces and the bomb squad were notified. Officials of the state criminal police were also on hand."

Police, robots and bomb-sniffing dogs searched the area only to find nothing, resulting in authorities to call off the search.  

The perpetrator made several calls to the police station, in which he told authorities the bomb was in a red pickup truck. A vehicle matching the description was found on Gürzenreichstraße, but no explosions were found in it.

Detectives are now combing through the phone calls for details about the caller.

According to the KSTA police would not confirm whether the caller said he was connected to the Islamic State (Isis) terrorist organization for "investigative reasons". 

In November, raids in the city and surrounding district netted in the arrests of eight men for supporting jihad groups, including Isis.

SEE ALSO: Far-right thugs injure 44 officers in Cologne clash

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German man jailed for killing petrol station worker in mask row

A 50-year-old German man was jailed for life Tuesday for shooting dead a petrol station cashier because he was angry about being told to wear a mask while buying beer.

German man jailed for killing petrol station worker in mask row

The September 2021 murder in the western town of Idar-Oberstein shocked Germany, which saw a vocal anti-mask and anti-vaccine movement emerge in response to the government’s coronavirus restrictions.

The row started when 20-year-old student worker Alex W. asked the man to put on a mask inside the shop, as required in all German stores at the time.

After a brief argument, the man left.

The perpetrator – identified only as Mario N. – returned about an hour and a half later, this time wearing a mask. But as he bought his six-pack of beer to the till, he took off his mask and another argument ensued.

He then pulled out a revolver and shot the cashier in the head point-blank.

On Tuesday, the district court in Bad-Kreuznach convicted Mario N. of murder and unlawful possession of a firearm, and handed him a life sentence.

READ ALSO: Shock in Germany after cashier shot dead in Covid mask row

Under German law, people given a life sentence can usually seek parole after 15 years. His defence team had sought a sentence of manslaughter, rather than murder.

At the start of the trial, prosecutor Nicole Frohn told how Mario N. had felt increasingly angry about the measures imposed to curb the pandemic, seeing them as an infringement on his rights.

“Since he knew he couldn’t reach the politicians responsible, he decided to kill him (Alex W.),” she said.

Mario N. turned himself in to police the day after the shooting.

German has relaxed most of its coronavirus rules, although masks are still required in some settings, such as public transport.