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An act of sabotage shut down parts of Germany's rail system for hours this weekend

Rail passengers wait for a train on a platform at the main train station in Berlin on Saturday following major disruption on the German railway network.
John MacDougall
/
AFP via Getty Images
Rail passengers wait for a train on a platform at the main train station in Berlin on Saturday following major disruption on the German railway network.

Updated October 9, 2022 at 1:14 PM ET

BERLIN — German authorities say a malicious and targeted act of sabotage caused a three-hour halt to all rail traffic in northern Germany on Saturday morning.

German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser said cables vital for the country's rail network were intentionally cut in two places, causing a sudden halt to all rail traffic, both passenger and cargo, in the northern part of the country.

Transport Minister Volker Wissing said the affected cables are "essential for handling railway traffic safely." He said Germany's federal police were investigating the incident.

Federal police said the crime scenes were in a Berlin suburb and in the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia, German news agency dpa reported.

"We can't say anything today either about the background to this act or the perpetrators," Wissing said. "The investigation will have to yield that."

While the motive for the incident was unclear, it came a day before a state election in the German state of Lower Saxony where German chancellor Olaf Scholz's Social Democratic Party is on track to retain power and the Green party is seen as doubling its share of the vote.

The disruption caused alarm in the wake of last month's acts of sabotage that ruptured the two main natural gas pipelines running from Russia to Germany underneath the Baltic Sea, an incident that spurred NATO and the European Union to stress the need to better protect critical infrastructure.

Material from The Associated Press was included in this report.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Rob Schmitz is NPR's international correspondent based in Berlin, where he covers the human stories of a vast region reckoning with its past while it tries to guide the world toward a brighter future. From his base in the heart of Europe, Schmitz has covered Germany's levelheaded management of the COVID-19 pandemic, the rise of right-wing nationalist politics in Poland and creeping Chinese government influence inside the Czech Republic.