German investigators search for motive in deadly knife attack

German investigators search for motive in deadly knife attack

The suspect, a 24-year-old Somali who arrived in Wuerzburg in 2015, organized the attack in the city center on Friday evening, hitting a household goods store before going to a bank.

He was later overpowered by police after shooting him in the thigh.

Investigators found documents showing the man had been treated in a mental institution, and police said he was not a known Islamist.

Chancellor Angela Merkel said investigations will show what prompted the man to go wild.

“But what is certain is that the horrific act is directed against all humanity and all religions,” tweeted spokesperson Steffen Seibert.

But the far-right AfD party immediately seized upon the violence that erupted barely three months before the legislative elections.

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Anti-immigration party co-leader Joerg Meuthen noted that a witness
reportedly heard the suspect shout “Allah Akbar” (God is the greatest).

Meuthen lamented the latest “Islamist knife killings in central Germany”, adding that it was a “tragedy for the victims, who have my sympathy and another manifestation of the failure of the migration policy of Merkel ”.

The AfD pointed out that Merkel’s decision to allow more than one million asylum seekers – many of them fleeing Iraq and Syria – since 2015 has contributed to an increased security risk.

Spiegel Online reported that the suspect said during questioning that the act was his “jihad”.

If confirmed as an Islamist act, the case risks reopening a bitter debate in Germany over immigration – a topic that has so far taken a step back in this year’s election campaign, compared to the latest polls in 2017, when the AfD won seats in parliament for the first time.

People lay flowers and candles at a makeshift memorial to the victims of a deadly attack in downtown Würzburg, southern Germany. Photo credit: ARMANDO BABANI / AFP

“Sad and shocked”

In the Bavarian town, locals brought flowers and candles in the morning to the stabbing scene.

“I am extremely sad and shocked and that is why I am here. I think it’s the least you can do – show sympathy, ”said Franziska, a Wuerzburg resident who brought candles with a friend.

Others asked the police stationed at the site what had happened, testified an AFP reporter.

President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said he was shocked by the “extreme brutality” of the crime. “We mourn today all over Germany with the relatives of the victims,” ​​he said, also wishing the injured a speedy recovery.

Two of the five seriously injured were still in critical condition, said Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann.

Local media reported that all three deaths occurred in household items
store where the suspect had gone to get his knife.

Video footage circulating online showed passers-by trying to stop the suspect using folded chairs.

Crowds of people chased before a police car arrived at the scene, video showed.

Praise poured in from political leaders thanking civilians for their courage.

“My great respect goes to the brave citizens who quickly intervened,” tweeted Armin Laschet, leader of Merkel’s CDU party.

READ ALSO: Three people killed in knife attack in German city of Würzburg

A target

While the author’s motive remains uncertain, Germany has been on high alert after several Islamist attacks.

Wuerzburg itself was hit five years ago by a man with an ax who seriously injured four people on a train.

The suspect, an Afghan, attempted to attack a passerby before being shot by police. The attack was claimed by the Islamic State group.

In Germany’s deadliest Islamist attack, a Tunisian jihadist slammed into a truck at a Berlin Christmas market in December 2016, killing 12 people.

More recently, a man was killed by a 20-year-old Syrian jihadist in a knife attack in Dresden in October.

The number of Islamists considered dangerous in Germany increased sharply between 2015 and 2018, according to the security services.

Some 615 are considered dangerous by the last count against 730 in January 2018.

Germany remains a target for jihadist groups, especially because of its involvement in the coalition fighting ISIS in Iraq and Syria, and its deployment in Afghanistan since 2001.

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