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A German newspaper reported this week that five men were detained but released for allegedly surveying a U.S. military installation in Hanau.

The group of men included two Germans who had converted to Islam and three Turks with German passports, according to a report Tuesday in the Frankfurter Rundschau newspaper. The report credited another publication, the magazine Focus, in stating that the men are part of an Islamic group that may be involved in jihad-type activities.

U.S. Army public affairs officials contacted Friday in Hanau and Heidelberg referred questions regarding the possible surveillance of the Hanau installation to the U.S. European Command in Stuttgart.

“Questions regarding host-nation law enforcement efforts are best answered by the host nation,” wrote Capt. Darrick Lee in an e-mail. “As you may know, we generally do not discuss specifics of such events because of security concerns.”

The Frankfurter Rundschau newspaper quoted the Hessen state minister of the interior, Volker Bouffier, saying that terrorism is always a “latent danger” in Germany, with particular concern about the airport. Bouffier recalled that in 2000, four Algerians who apparently planned an attack on a Christmas market were arrested in Frankfurt.

The men were released because there was no evidence they’d done anything illegal, the report stated.

On April 20, the U.S. Embassy in Germany posted a message stating that Americans in Germany face an increased threat of terrorism and warned them to be on the lookout. The next day, EUCOM officials announced security exercises would start immediately at a number of military bases throughout Europe, but the announcement did not say if the exercises were in response to the Embassy alert.

Less than a week later, on April 26, military officials evacuated Wolfgang Kaserne — a U.S. shopping center in Hanau — after a security guard reported hearing an explosion just outside the base. German and American police, bomb-sniffing dogs and a helicopter swept through the area in search of the cause. On April 30, U.S. military officials in Hanau said authorities were unable to find the source of the loud noise that was reported.

Any increased security at bases since then has been largely invisible, although shoppers on Friday at Heidelberg’s commissary noted that military police were checking IDs inside the store entrance.

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Nancy is an Italy-based reporter for Stars and Stripes who writes about military health, legal and social issues. An upstate New York native who served three years in the U.S. Army before graduating from the University of Arizona, she previously worked at The Anchorage Daily News and The Seattle Times. Over her nearly 40-year journalism career she’s won several regional and national awards for her stories and was part of a newsroom-wide team at the Anchorage Daily News that was awarded the 1989 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.

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