Search for suspect after German Christmas market bomb scare

Berlin (AFP) –


German police were searching Saturday for the sender of a package initially feared to contain a bomb found near a Christmas market in Potsdam, almost a year after a deadly terror attack at a similar market in Berlin.

The device was uncovered on Friday at a pharmacy just off the Christmas market in central Potsdam, a picturesque city near the German capital.

"We are undergoing intense investigations in all directions," a local police spokesman told AFP.

A pharmacist sounded the alert after finding a canister with wires inside the package.

After initial reports that it was an explosive device, local authorities said the cylindrical canister was filled with nails and powder, batteries and wires -- as well as a powerful firework of a type not allowed in Germany -- but there was no sign of a detonator inside.

It is not yet clear if the Christmas market was the target, or only the pharmacy.

"Both options are possible," Brandenburg interior minister Karl-Heinz Schroeter said.

The market was only partially evacuated on Friday and will reopen as normal on Saturday with a stronger police presence, the spokesman said.

Germany has been on high alert for possible jihadist attacks after last December's deadly assault at a Christmas market in central Berlin.

The attacker, Tunisian asylum seeker Anis Amri, hijacked a truck and murdered its Polish driver before killing another 11 people and wounding dozens more by ploughing the heavy vehicle through the market.

Four days later, while on the run, he was shot dead by Italian police in Milan.

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack, as well as several others on German soil over the last two years.