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Spelling mistake triggered terror alarm at Germany's biggest music festival

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Spelling mistake triggered terror alarm at Germany's biggest music festival
The empty grounds of the festival. Photo: DPA.
16:13 CEST+02:00
German police admitted on Wednesday that they asked organizers to suspend the Rock am Ring festival earlier this month after two misspelled names led them to suspect radical Islamists were working there.

The names belonged to two employees of a Frankfurt-based company that had been subcontracted to set up the stages at the festival. The names appear to have been spelled incorrectly on a list of employees handed out to the festival organizers, leading police to suspect that they may have been connected to the Islamist scene.

According to Focus, the two men are Syrian nationals.

“The names of the suspects were written incorrectly, but they exhibited a phonetic similarity to the actual names,” said Johannes Kunz, chief of police in Rhineland-Palatinate, to the Allgemeine Zeitung in Mainz.

“At the time, the situation was very serious - we couldn’t rule out that an attack was being prepared.”

Rock am Ring was thrown into disarray at the start of June when police asked organizers to evacuate the 87,000 festival-goers during the first day of the concert.

The festival, which has been running since 1985 and is the biggest in Germany, resumed early the next morning.

At the time, a police spokesperson said that "one person who is not of German origin and is known to the police as having links to the Islamist terror network had access to" backstage areas.

Three people suspected of being members of a Salafist group in the neighbouring state of Hesse were detained but released shortly after.

Kunz said that security checks need to be strengthened at future festivals so that police can request the identity of all people who work at the locations, even if on a strictly voluntary basis. Currently police check the identities of employees of security firms at the events.

"Identification documents must be given to us in good time in the future," he said.

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