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Last Updated: Tuesday, 30 December, 2003, 23:52 GMT
Security alert at German hospital
Armed policeman [right] and residents stand by roadblock at military hospital in Wansbeck, Germany
More than 200 police officers and soldiers are at the scene
Police in Germany are on high alert after a warning that Islamic militants are planning to attack a military hospital in the city of Hamburg.

City police said they had received a tip suggesting that extremists were planning a suicide car bomb attack.

The US airbase at Rhein-Main is also thought to be another possible target.

Several streets around the hospital in the suburb of Wansbeck have been sealed off and will remain so until further notice, police said.

'US warning'

Hamburg police said in their statement they received the information from unnamed "security sources" at 1430 local time (1330 GMT), AP reported.

Mounir al-Motassadek
Motassadek was convicted in Germany in relation to the 11 September attacks
German intelligence services later said the warning came from a US intelligence agency.

The threat is thought to come from the militant group Ansar al-Islam, based in northern Iraq.

Two members of the group were said to be planning to plant a car bomb outside the hospital, however it is not clear where the men are now.

German officials said the men, thought to be of Middle Eastern origin, travelled to the country in early December to carry out the suicide attack.

US officials have accused Ansar al-Islam of having links to Osama Bin Laden's al-Qaeda network.

More than 200 police officers armed with sub-machine guns, soldiers and explosives experts have been sent to the scene.

Police using sniffer dogs are also checking cars entering the area.

There has been speculation that US forces injured in Iraq are being treated at the facility.

The Hamburg connection

BBC correspondent Tristana Moore in Berlin says the threat is being taken very seriously by German authorities, who have already been on high alert over the Christmas period.

In February, a German court sentenced Moroccan Mounir al-Motassadek to 15 years in prison after he was convicted of helping three of the suicide pilots involved in the 11 September 2001 attacks.

The court which convicted Motassadek heard he was a member of the Hamburg cell which planned the terror attacks, which included pilots Mohammad Atta, Marwan al-Shehhi and Ziad Jarrah.

He is the only person so far to have been convicted in relation to the 11 September attacks.


SEE ALSO:
Germany defends al-Qaeda trial
12 Dec 03  |  Europe
German court frees 9/11 suspect
11 Dec 03  |  Europe
Arrests signal new urgency
28 Nov 03  |  Europe
The Hamburg connection
19 Feb 03  |  Europe


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