Sep 19, 2016

    Will terror fears hurt turnout at Oktoberfest?


    THE Oktoberfest, Munich's annual beer festival, opened on Saturday with a stronger police presence than usual after a string of attacks in recent months in Germany.

    In the southern region of Bavaria, where Munich is located, two attacks by jihadists took place over the summer and another was committed by a migrant with psychiatric problems, in which nine people died.

    Munich's mayor, Dieter Reiter, officially opened the festival's 183rd edition at noon (6pm Singapore time).

    For the first time, the Theresienwiese, the open space that hosts the Oktoberfest until Oct 3, is fenced off.

    Large bags are banned and 600 police officers are permanently on duty instead of the usual 500. Video surveillance has also been boosted.

    Organisers are worried that security concerns will mean fewer people will come to the festival this year.

    In 2015, when Bavaria received record numbers of migrants, some 5.9 million people came to the Oktoberfest, 400,000 fewer than in 2014.

    In July, teenager David Ali Sonboly, a German-Iranian, shot dead nine people and injured 35 in a shopping centre before killing himself.

    Four days earlier, a 17-year-old asylum seeker went on a rampage with an axe and a knife on a train in Bavaria, injuring five people.

    Also in July, 15 people were wounded when a Syrian national, who had been refused asylum in Germany, blew himself up outside a music festival.