August 2, 2021

Shocked by deadly attack, Germany investigates aggressor’s motives

German police tried on Saturday June 26 to find out more about the motives of a young man who killed three people and seriously injured at least five others in a brutal knife attack the day before in Würzburg, Bavaria. . Investigators do not exclude, for the time being, that an Islamist radicalization or psychiatric disorders can explain his passage to the act.

On Friday, shortly after 5 p.m., he killed three women, including a saleswoman, in a department store in this Bavarian town of 130,000 inhabitants. He then attacked other people in a nearby savings bank and then in the street, seriously injuring six people, one of whom was between life and death. The man, of Somali nationality and arrived in Germany as an asylum seeker in May 2015, was able to be controlled thanks to the intervention of passers-by, several of whom have politicians praised for civic courage.

At a press conference in Würzburg on Saturday, Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann said that “The signs of a possible radicalization towards Islamism” and those showing that the 24-year-old suffered “Possible psychiatric problems were not mutually exclusive”.

According to testimony reported by Mr. Herrmann, the assailant, who lived in a homeless shelter, shouted « Allahou akbar » (“Allah is the Most Great”) by carrying out the attack. The national anti-terrorism prosecution was not seized at this stage, and investigators said they could not confirm whether propaganda material from the Islamic State (IS) organization had been found at the attacker’s home, such as the media claimed. The analysis of two mobile phones is also in progress.

On the other hand, the young man, who has a residence permit in Germany, has had trouble twice since the beginning of the year with the justice which had ordered his provisional internment in a psychiatric hospital. During the last incident, this month, he was out of the establishment after 24 hours, said Wolfgang Gründler, prosecutor of Bamberg.

“Courageous citizens”

Faced with the shock felt in Germany, government spokesman Steffen Seibert stressed that the investigation would reveal what motivated the aggressor. “But what is certain is that this horrible act is directed against all humanity and all religions”, he tweeted. German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said to be “Shocked”, while the aggressor has shown “Extreme brutality”.

Saturday, the pretty city of 130,000 inhabitants was dazed: residents came to lay flowers and candles at the scene of the attack. “I’m sad and in shock, that’s why I came here today. It’s the least we can do ”, testified a resident, Franziska.

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Conservative candidate and possible Chancellor Angela Merkel’s successor Armin Laschet has announced his « grand respect » with regard to “Courageous citizens who quickly intervened” to stop the aggressor. The candidate of the Greens, Annalena Baerbock, also addressed ” a big thank-you “ to rescue teams and “To courageous citizens” who intervened.

For its part, the far-right Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) party took up the case to denounce “The Islamist knife murders in the heart of Germany”, according to a tweet by its co-chairman, Jörg Meuthen. The AfD, which has built much of its discourse on the rejection of Islam and immigration, also saw in this attack “Further proof of the failure of the migration policy of[Angela] Merkel ».

Permanent threat

The German authorities are on the alert regarding the Islamist threat – especially since a ram truck attack, which occurred in December 2016 in Berlin and resulting in twelve victims, had been claimed by the Islamic State (IS) organization. This jihadist attack remains to this day the deadliest ever committed on German soil.

Since 2009, federal authorities have foiled 17 such attack attempts, the majority of which since the 2016 attack, according to the Interior Ministry. During the spring of 2020, the police had thus dismantled, in North Rhine-Westphalia, a cell of suspected terrorists, originating in Tajikistan and linked to ISIS. In June 2018, the police announced that they had foiled an attack on “Biological bomb”, following the arrest of a Tunisian national suspected of being linked to ISIS.

Since 2013, the number of Islamists considered dangerous in Germany has increased fivefold, to currently stand at 615, according to the Interior Ministry. That of the Salafists is estimated at around 11,000, twice as many as in 2013. In 2020, 320 new investigations involving a link with the Islamist threat were opened in Germany. A declining figure, which nevertheless does not say “Nothing on the qualitative danger” such a threat, according to the prosecutor of the German anti-terrorism prosecution, Peter Frank.

In addition to the ram truck attack on a Christmas market in the capital, ISIS also claimed a knife murder in Hamburg in 2016, as well as a bomb attack in Ansbach (which left 15 injured and killed the assailant) and an ax attack on a train in Bavaria (5 wounded), the perpetrator of which had been shot dead by police.

The World with AFP