November 24, 2015 / 7:29 PM / in 2 years

Despite security fears, Germans aim to enjoy Christmas market season

Police officers walk around the Christmas market on the first day of its opening in Dortmund, Germany, in this file picture taken November 23, 2015.Ina Fassbender/Files

BERLIN (Reuters) - Germans appear determined to enjoy their traditional outdoor Christmas markets this year even after the bloody militant attacks on Paris that have raised fears for public security all over western Europe.

"One surely is scared. After all, you can't rule out that something might also happen here," said Doris Kirsch, a pensioner visiting the Christmas market in Dortmund at the weekend. "But life goes on and we should keep our chins up."

Some German cities increased the police presence at their Christmas markets but national police union chief Rainer Wendt cautioned against overbearing security measures.

"We don't want to turn Christmas markets into events bristling with guns," he said, adding that instead police would generally drop by every so often.

Around 160 million visitors have descended on the roughly 2,500 Christmas markets in Germany every year in recent times, according to the Federal Association of Fairground Showmen.

But this year is different. There is a good deal of anxiety that the open markets, famous for decorated booths selling mulled wine, sausages and candied almonds, may be easy targets for Islamic State militants.

Compounding those fears, police on Tuesday went into action after getting a tip-off that Paris attack suspect Salah Abdeslam was in northwestern Germany. The dragnet ended with no arrests.

The first Christmas markets opened a week after the bombings and shootings in Paris on Nov. 13 that killed 130 people.

Last week, state authorities canceled a soccer friendly match in Hanover between Germany and the Netherlands, citing a specific security threat - plans, according to German media, to detonate bombs at the stadium and a train station in the city.

Heavily armed police now patrol the streets, train stations and airports in many German cities.

Christmas market organizers and the police say that there is no concrete evidence that the markets are a target.

Most Christmas markets are located in open squares or streets without designated entry points, making monitoring and security checks difficult.

At Dortmund's Christmas market, Andreas Schoehnfelder shared the lesson he drew from the Paris attacks: "I don't have a problem at all, there's no uneasy feeling about coming here. After all, things can happen anywhere and I'm simply happy that the Christmas markets are up and running now."

Reporting by Tina Bellon and Reuters TV Editing by Joseph Nasr and Mark Heinrich

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