Germany ax attack injures several on train, police kill suspect
By Lonzo Cook, Nadine Schmidt and Joshua Berlinger, CNN
Updated 1059 GMT (1859 HKT) July 19, 2016
Police: Man with ax attacks several on train 00:49
ISIS flag found in assailant’s apartment
Attacker was a 17-year-old Afghan man living in Germany, official says
Police shot and killed attacker; four passengers are in serious condition
Berlin (CNN)An ax-wielding man who attacked several people on a train in southern Germany late Monday evening has been shot dead by police, regional police spokesman Lt. Fabian Hench said.
The assailant, armed with a knife and an ax, was identified as a 17-year-old Afghan man living in Ochsenfurt, Bavaria, Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann said.
After the initial incident, the train’s emergency brakes were deployed and the attacker fled into a nearby town, Herrmann said at a news conference Tuesday.
Police chased the attacker and then met him very close to the river where they confronted him, Herrmann said.
The teen was aggressive and tried to attack cops with his ax before they opened fire and killed him.
Herrmann said that a hand-drawn flag resembling the one used by ISIS was found in the attacker’s room, and said that he shouted "Allahu Akbar" during the attack, according to initial distress calls.
He acted by himself, Herrmann said.
Though a pro-ISIS media group said the attacker was a "ISIS fighter," authorities cast doubt on that claim and it’s believed to be unlikely that he was working under the direct supervision of the terror group.
The 17-year-old was taken in two weeks ago by a foster family, Herrmann said.
"This is a big mosaic puzzle right now and we will do everything to pull information together in order to assess his motivation," he said.
The teen came to Germany without his parents, according to Alexander Gross, a police officer in Bavaria.
The attack took place as the train was traveling between Treuchtlingen and Wurzburg. The train made an emergency stop short of the station at Wurzburg-Heidingsfeld and the assailant jumped out of the train, Hench said.
His motive is not yet known, Hench said.
Germany absorbed more than one million refugees last year. Some have been concerned over the presence of terror groups in the country — both the potential for attackers to slip in with migrants and the concern that they may be able to radicalize disaffected youths.
Three Syrian men were arrested last month on suspicions that they were planning to carry out a mass casualty attack in Dusseldorf.
Many ’in shock’
Four passengers who were attacked are in serious condition, with the total number of wounded unclear, according to the police spokesman.
Some 14 to 25 people were classified as "in shock" and treated at the scene, according to Gross.
At least four of those injured on the train were from Hong Kong, Hong Kong’s chief executive, CY Leung, said in a statement.
Herrmann said that those four are the most seriously injured. They were from a family of five relatives traveling together.
One is currently battling life-threatening injuries, he said.
Approximately 20 to 30 people were on the train, according to Gross.
A Deutsche Bahn spokesperson confirmed that train service between the two stations has resumed.
CNN’s Claudia Otto in Berlin and Vivian Kam in Hong Kong contributed to this report.
ISIS Claims Responsibility for Ax Attack on German Train
By MELISSA EDDY
JULY 19, 2016
WÜRZBURG, Germany — The Islamic State claimed responsibility on Tuesday for a rampage by a 17-year-old Afghan migrant who attacked passengers on a regional train in southern Germany with an ax, and then seriously injured a woman who was walking her dog, before he was killed by the police.
The train attack, around 9 p.m. Monday near Würzburg in Bavaria, wounded four visitors from Hong Kong, two of them critically. The woman walking her dog was hospitalized with serious injuries.
The attack intensified fears in Germany that the huge influx of migrants and refugees could pose a security threat.
“The brutality and unrestrained readiness to use violence that is reflected by this act has shocked me deeply,” said Horst Seehofer, the governor of the southern state of Bavaria and an ally but occasional critic of Chancellor Angela Merkel, at a cabinet meeting. Justice Minister Heiko Maas called on Germans “to fight radicalism, regardless of where it comes from.”
On Tuesday afternoon, the Islamic State released a video with Arabic subtitles of a young man, who appeared to be the one who carried out the attack, reciting a jihadist manifesto.
In the video, the young man said in Pashto, one of the major languages of Afghanistan, “I will do a martyrdom operation in Germany today,” and pledged allegiance to the Islamic State. He said that Islamic State fighters had settled in “infidel” countries and vowed: “God willing, you will be targeted in your villages, in your cities, in your airports, in your streets. The Islamic caliphate is strong enough to target you everywhere, even in your Parliament.” He also urged Muslims to “wake up and support the caliphate,” and to pledge allegiance to the Islamic State’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
Erik Ohlenschlager, the chief prosecutor in Bamberg, said at a news conference in Würzburg that the authorities were examining the video to determine if the young man in the video was the teenager who carried out the attack.
Hours earlier, in a bulletin issued in Arabic and English via its Amaq News Agency, the Islamic State claimed responsibility for the ax attack. It called the Afghan teenager an “Islamic State soldier,” using language similar to its claim of responsibility for the Bastille Day attack in Nice, France, that killed 84 people on Thursday.
The statement added that he had acted in response to the Islamic State’s call to target members of the American-led coalition that is fighting the group in Iraq and Syria.
The German authorities said that investigators had found a hand-drawn flag of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, in the room of the Afghan teenager, along with notes in Pashto indicating that he might have been self-radicalized.
Approximately 1.5 million migrants have applied for asylum in Germany in the past 18 months, but the enthusiastic welcome they initially received has given way to one of increasing concern as the euphoria of generosity is overshadowed by the difficult reality of integration.
Although the flow has slowed, Ms. Merkel has been under increasing pressure, especially after North African migrants were linked to hundreds of sexual assaults in Cologne on New Year’s Eve.
According to the Bavarian State Criminal Police, the teenager entered Germany on June 30, 2015, without his parents and was registered in Passau. He received a temporary residence permit.
More than 60,000 unaccompanied minors were registered as asylum seekers in Germany last year, and more than half of the approximately 15,000 in Bavaria were from Afghanistan.
Under German law, they cannot be extradited until they are 18 and are granted the same rights, such as access to education and financial support, as German juveniles who live on their own.
Many of the young refugees are in group homes, but others have been placed in foster families. Joachim Herrmann, interior minister of the southern state of Bavaria, where the attack occurred, said the attacker had most recently lived with a family near Würzburg.
Michael Horlemann, who runs the department for youth, social affairs and health in the largely rural district around Würzburg, said that most of the 150 unaccompanied minors in the district lived in group homes, but 10 to 15 — who were selected because they seemed to be adapting well — lived in smaller shared apartments or with host families. The teenager was one of those selected, Mr. Horlemann said, adding that the foster families taking part were carefully screened.
The authorities believed that the teenager carried out the assault alone, but that has not been confirmed, said Mr. Herrmann.
Whether the teenager had direct contact with operatives of the Islamic State or was simply motivated by its propaganda remained unclear.
“The first emergency call to the police from a witness in the train said that he had shouted ‘Allahu akbar,’ ” Mr. Herrmann told the public broadcaster ZDF. “In searching the room where he last lived, a hand-drawn I.S. flag was found.”
“This must now all be put together in like a big mosaic,” he said, “to figure out what his motivation was and the extent to which he really belonged in an Islamic movement, or whether he became self-radicalized very recently.”
Alexander Gross, superintendent criminal detective of the Bavarian State Office of Criminal Investigations, urged the public to treat the Islamic State’s claim with caution, as many experts have also tried to do.
“Just because I.S. is claiming this attack does not mean there is anything to it,” Mr. Gross said. “Right now, we have to examine in great detail who he knew and with whom he was in contact, in order to create a complete picture” of what motivated him.
The train left Treuchtlingen at 7:25 p.m., with a scheduled arrival in Würzburg at 9:18 p.m. The attack occurred around 9 p.m. At 9:05 p.m., a passenger activated an emergency brake on the train, when it was in the Heidingsfeld district of Würzburg, and the police were called about 10 minutes later.
The teenager fled the train, and attacked at a woman walking her dog along the Main River. Then he encountered police officers, including special forces, who were responding to the emergency calls. He lunged at them, and they opened fire, killing him, Mr. Herrmann said.
Four of the victims were visiting from Hong Kong: a father, 62, and mother, 58, their 26-year-old daughter, and her boyfriend, 30. The older couple’s 17-year-old son was unhurt.
Hong Kong’s chief executive, Leung Chun-ying, condemned the attack and sent officials to Germany to provide assistance to the family.
“The two men are more heavily injured, particularly in their heads and torsos,” Kenneth Tong, a senior immigration officer, said before leaving Hong Kong for Frankfurt with three colleagues and four relatives of the family. “It remains to be determined whether we’d transfer them to Hong Kong.”
The mother and daughter are in stable condition, he said.
Germany has not experienced attacks on the same scale as Belgium or France, but it remains on edge amid threats on social media by Islamist extremists and the repeated targeting of its European neighbors. Several plots have been foiled by the police.
In May, a 27-year-old German killed one man and wounded three others with a knife while shouting “Allahu akbar” — “God is great” — on a commuter train in a suburb of Munich. After questioning him, the authorities said that he had no known links to extremist groups and that they believed he was mentally disturbed.
Fears that terrorists may have entered the country among the hundreds of thousands of migrants have been running high. With the attack coming days after a Tunisian man drove a truck down a street packed with pedestrians on Bastille Day in Nice, the assault Monday night could have wider political ramifications.
Reporting was contributed by Mohamad Fahim Abed and Mujib Mashal from Kabul, Afghanistan; Mona Boshnaq from London; Rukmini Callimachi from New York; Victor Homola from Berlin; and Alan Wong from Hong Kong.