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Police find letter claiming Borussia Dortmund team bus attack

Ina Fassbender, dpa / AFP | The damaged bus of Borussia Dortmund is pictured in western Germany on April 11, 2017

A letter claiming responsibility was found near the site of three blasts that went off near the team bus of Borussia Dortmund, one of Germany's top football clubs, as it set off for a Champions League quarter-final match on Tuesday evening.

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Prosecutor Sandra Luecke told reporters about the letter during a late evening press conference. She said investigators are examining its authenticity.

Luecke declined to reveal more about the letter’s contents, citing the ongoing investigation, but German media said police are probing a possible Islamist link.

The Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper and other outlets said the letter referred to the 2016 Berlin Christmas market attack which killed 12 people and was claimed by the Islamic State (IS) group.

'The whole of Germany is shocked'

It also mentioned Germany's deployment of Tornado reconnaissance missions as part of an international coalition battling the IS group, according to unnamed sources quoted by the German media.

Police said they were working on the assumption that the blasts were directed at the Borussia Dortmund team and caused by "serious explosive devices," which may have been hidden in a hedge near a car park.

Investigators are not excluding any possible angles in their investigation, while the "concrete background" to the blasts remains unclear, he said.

Defender Barta underwent surgery

The explosions – which injured Dortmund player Marc Bartra - happened as the team was departing its hotel for a first-leg match against Monaco. The game was called off shortly before kick-off and rescheduled for Wednesday.

As a result of the attack, Dortmund defender Bartra underwent surgery after breaking the radial bone in his arm and having pieces of debris lodged in his hand removed.

"We're all in shock and our thoughts are with Marc," said club captain Marcel Schmelzer.

The captain added that the prevailing mood in the Black and Yellow camp is "to play the match tonight for Marc"

‘Dortmund targeted’

"We had to assume, and assumed right from the start, that this was a targeted attack against the team of Borussia Dortmund," Dortmund Police Chief Gregor Lange.

There were three explosions near the Dortmund bus as the team left the L'Arrivee Hotel and Spa on the outskirts of the western city of Dortmund for the stadium, around 10 kilometres away, at 7:15 pm, police said.

A window on the bus was damaged and Spanish defender Marc Bartra was injured. Club spokesman Sascha Fligge said Bartra was operated on late Tuesday for a broken bone in his right wrist and to remove "foreign objects" from his arm.

Dortmund goalkeeper Roman Buerki said the team bus had just pulled out of the hotel driveway when an explosion - a "huge bang" - happened and sent glass flying. Buerki, who is from Switzerland, told Swiss daily Blick that he was sitting in the last row of the bus, next to Bartra.

Bartra was hit by shards from the broken back window, he added. Players ducked for cover, wondering whether there would be more explosions.

"We're all shocked - nobody thought about a football match in the minutes after that," Buerki said.

Video: Monaco fans chant 'Dortmund' in sympathy

Lange said a further "suspicious object" was found at the scene, but it does not appear to have been another explosive device.

Inside the packed stadium, Monaco supporters - which plays in the French league - chanted "Dortmund, Dortmund!" as the news spread in sympathy with the German side.

Dortmund residents, for their part, used social media to offer accommodation to stranded Monaco supporters ahead of their rescheduled match in Europe's premier football club competition.

Watzke added that there was "no alternative" to rescheduling the match for Wednesday, as Monaco also has to play over the weekend and the return Champions League match is scheduled for next week.

"It's a very unfortunate situation, but there was no other way," he explained.

Stadium spokesman Norbert Dickel informed fans already inside the venue of the cancellation, saying that "there is no reason for panic here at the stadium." Police said fans left the stadium without problems.

Police chief Lange made clear that authorities will put heavy security in place for Wednesday's match, though there was no threat to the stadium on Tuesday.

"We are preparing for a major operation tomorrow, and we will do everything humanly possible to ensure that the match tomorrow can occur safely," he said.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP)

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