German police tried on Saturday to find out more about the motives of a young man with psychiatric disorders who killed three people and seriously injured at least five others in a brutal knife attack the day before in Würzburg, in the south of Germany.
The man, presented as being of Somali nationality and arriving in this Bavarian city in 2015, was able to be subdued thanks to the intervention of passers-by, several of whom were politicians, in particular the candidates for the September elections, praised for civic courage.
Police and local authorities have scheduled a press conference for 3 p.m. (1 p.m. GMT).
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said he was “shocked” after this “horrible act of violence” in which the aggressor displayed “extreme brutality”.
The pretty city of 130,000 inhabitants woke up dazed: residents came to lay flowers and candles at the scene of the attack, noted an AFP journalist.
“I’m sad and in shock, that’s why I came here today. It’s the least we can do, ”testified a resident, Franziska, who came with a friend to drop candles.
As early as Friday evening, the Bavarian Minister of the Interior, Joachim Herrmann, announced that the alleged 24-year-old attacker had been known for several months for acts of violence and psychiatric disorders.
He had even been recently interned in a psychiatric establishment, he said, going there in the evening.
The conservative minister also referred to a witness claiming that the assailant shouted “Allah Akbar” (Allah is the greatest) while carrying out the attack.
According to rescue teams, the Somali showed “truly incredible brutality,” he said.
The national anti-terrorist prosecution had not been contacted at this stage. And local police said the assailant was so far not known for Islamist beliefs.
The far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, however, took up the case to denounce “the Islamist knife killings in the heart of Germany”, according to a tweet from its co-president, Jörg Meuthen.
The AfD, which has built much of its discourse on the rejection of Islam and immigration, also saw this attack as “further proof of the failure of (Angela) Merkel’s migration policy. “.
Between 2015 and 2016, Germany hosted more than one million asylum seekers, many of them fleeing conflicts in Syria and Iraq.
The migration policy of the Chancellor, who will step down after the legislative elections scheduled in exactly three months, served as a springboard for the far right, which entered the Chamber of Deputies in force in 2017.
The candidate of the conservatives and possible successor of Angela Merkel to the chancellery, Armin Laschet, expressed his “great respect” towards “the courageous citizens who quickly intervened” to stop the aggressor.
The candidate of the Greens, Annalena Baerbock, also sent “a big thank you” to the rescue teams and “to the courageous citizens” who intervened.
Joachim Herrmann said the Somali had been living in the city since 2015 but no details were given on a possible asylum request.
He had been living in a homeless shelter for some time, according to the dpa agency.
The attack began in the late afternoon at a downtown Woolworth department store.
According to the Bild daily, the man stole a knife before randomly attacking several people inside the store, killing three of them before continuing to a nearby savings bank and hurt others.
Amateur videos broadcast on Friday evening on social networks showed scenes of great violence.
The assailant, barefoot and wearing a protective mask, staggered, long knife in hand, in the street as passers-by tried to stop him by grabbing chairs from café terraces and sticks. The man was eventually arrested by police who shot him in the thigh.
In 2016, a previous ax attack by an Afghan asylum seeker took place on a train in the same city of Würzburg, leaving five injured. The attack was claimed by the Islamic State (IS) organization.
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