Ham­burg at­tacker was ‘known Is­lamist’

26-year-old Palestinian suf­fered from psy­cho­log­i­cal prob­lems

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

HAM­BURG: The sus­pect who killed a man with a knife in Ham­burg su­per­mar­ket was a known Is­lamist, Ger­man of­fi­cials said yes­ter­day, adding that his mo­tives re­mained un­clear as he also suf­fered from psy­cho­log­i­cal prob­lems. Iden­ti­fied as a 26-year-old man of Palestinian ori­gin, he had ar­rived in Ger­many in 2015, but was due to be de­ported as his ap­pli­ca­tion for asy­lum was re­jected.

The as­sault risks re­open­ing a bit­ter de­bate over refugees two months be­fore gen­eral elec­tions, putting pres­sure on Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel over her de­ci­sion to open Ger­many’s borders in 2015, let­ting more than a mil­lion asy­lum seek­ers in. “He was known as an Is­lamist but not a ji­hadist,” said the Ger­man port city’s in­te­rior min­is­ter Andy Grote, not­ing “there are in­di­ca­tions of rad­i­cal­iza­tion”. But the min­is­ter stressed that while there could have been an Is­lamist mo­tive for the at­tack, the sus­pect also suf­fered from “psy­cho­log­i­cal in­sta­bil­ity”.

“It re­mains un­clear which was the over­rid­ing el­e­ment,” he said. Po­lice piec­ing to­gether the as­sault on Fri­day said the man had en­tered the su­per­mar­ket and took a kitchen knife mea­sur­ing around 20 cm from the shelves. “He ripped off the pack­ag­ing and then sud­denly bru­tally at­tacked the 50-yearold man who later died,” said deputy po­lice chief Kathrin Hen­nings. He later wounded two other men in the su­per­mar­ket be­fore flee­ing, slash­ing oth­ers along the way, be­fore he was over­pow­ered by coura­geous passers-by. Wit­nesses told AFP the man had bran­dished the bloodied knife, shout­ing “Al­lahu Ak­bar” (“God is Great­est”) as he fled the scene, but that by­standers gave chase and flung chairs to stop him.

‘Al­most ex­em­plary’

If con­firmed as an Is­lamist at­tack, it would be the first in Ger­many since Tu­nisian Anis Amri drove a truck into crowds at a Ber­lin Christ­mas mar­ket on De­cem­ber 19, killing 12 and in­jur­ing 48. Ger­many has been on high alert over the threat of a ji­hadist as­sault since Amri’s ram­page in Ber­lin, for which the Is­lamic State group claimed re­spon­si­bil­ity.

Like the Ham­burg sus­pect, Amri was due to have been de­ported af­ter his asy­lum re­quest was turned down, but the process was held up by a lack of iden­tity doc­u­ments. News web­site Spiegel On­line named the su­per­mar­ket at­tacker as Ah­mad A, while of­fi­cials said he had not filed an ap­peal against Ger­many’s de­ci­sion to re­ject his asy­lum ap­pli­ca­tion. In fact, he had helped to ob­tain doc­u­ments to fa­cil­i­tate his de­par­ture from Ger­many.

On the day of the at­tack, he had even gone to the au­thor­i­ties to ask if the iden­tify pa­pers had ar­rived. Po­lice chief Ralf Meyer said the sus­pect was “al­most ex­em­plary” in this as­pect. Heav­ily armed po­lice who searched a Ham­burg asy­lum seek­ers’ shel­ter where the man lived did not find any weapons.

‘In­tel­li­gent but achieved noth­ing’

At the asy­lum shel­ter in a leafy sub­urb, the sus­pect’s neigh­bor, who gave his name only as Mo­hamed, de­scribed him as “very in­tel­li­gent”. “He was al­ways help­ing other asy­lum seek­ers with their pa­per­work,” the 31-year-old Syr­ian refugee told AFP. But in re­cent weeks, he “had a cri­sis, he bought Is­lamist clothes and read the Ko­ran very loudly in his room”.

“And three weeks af­ter Ra­madan, he had an­other cri­sis. He started to drink heav­ily and smoke joints... he was sad that his mother was ill and that his asy­lum re­quest was re­jected,” re­counted Mo­hamed. “I find this whole story very sad. He is 26 years old and... he has not achieved any­thing. And now we don’t know what he did this,” he added. On the high street in north­east Ham­burg where the as­sault struck, res­i­dents laid flow­ers and can­dles out­side the su­per­mar­ket, which was closed.

Asy­lum de­bate re­opens

Ahead of elec­tions in Septem­ber, the lat­est as­sault is ex­pected to rekin­dle the de­bate over the record refugee in­flux. “It makes me es­pe­cially an­gry that the per­pe­tra­tor ap­pears to be a per­son who claimed pro­tec­tion in Ger­many and then turned his hate against us,” said mayor Olaf Scholz. Beatrix von Storch of the pop­ulist party Al­ter­na­tive for Ger­many (AfD) had stronger words, writ­ing on Twit­ter that “be­fore Mrs Merkel tweets again that this is ‘be­yond com­pre­hen­sion’: this has some­thing to do with Is­lam. Com­pre­hend that once and for all!” AfD’s sup­port has fallen back in polling since the height of the mi­grant cri­sis, but the party re­mains on course to clear the thresh­old of five per­cent of the vote to en­ter par­lia­ment for the first time. — AFP


HAM­BURG: A woman places a can­dle at a makeshift memo­rial of flow­ers and can­dles ar­ranged like a peace sign.

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