Security is high as millions turn out for Oktoberfest

MUNICH, GERMANY – Heavy rain and tensions around safety are dominating headlines in Germany as Munich’s Oktoberfest started under tightened security.Organizers of the world’s biggest beer festival have banned rucksacks, introduced security checks and erected fencing around the Theresienwiese, an open space near the city center, where six million visitors are expected to drink over seven million liters of brew in the coming two weeks.The high-profile public event comes as German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s faces criticism from Bavarian allies who accused the Federal Migration Office (BAMF) this week of severe security flaws, saying its officials were not detecting forged passports when checking the identity of refugees.Merkel’s decision a year ago to keep German borders open for refugees has hit her popularity, causing a rift between her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU) who are calling for a stricter migrant policy.”We’ve got security deficits that we cannot accept in the interests of our population,” Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann told the rbb public broadcaster.He said Bavarian authorities had taken random samples of migrant passports and a “significant proportion” of them was counterfeit, but this had not been detected by BAMF officials.”We cannot accept this given the current situation and security in our country,” Herrmann added.His comments are likely to heat up the debate about Merkel’s refugee-friendly policy one day before a Berlin city election in which her conservatives look set to suffer a second electoral blow in two weeks.The battle between Merkel and her coalition partners over migration has escalated since the CDU suffered a heavy election defeat in the eastern state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern two weeks ago.CSU leader Horst Seehofer has pushed for a cap of 200,000 immigrants per year. Merkel has repeatedly ruled out any such limits, despite Germany having taken in around a million migrants last year alone, mostly from war-torn countries in the Middle East and Africa.Germany had until July been spared the kind of militant attacks suffered by neighboring France and Belgium. But in late July, Islamic State claimed two attacks — on a train near Wuerzburg and at a music festival in Ansbach — in which asylum-seekers wounded 20 people in total.On Tuesday, German police special forces arrested three young Syrians in the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein on suspicion of being sent by Islamic State for an attack.Reuters News Service contributed to this report.