Ham­burg sus­pect men­tally un­sta­ble

The Washington Post Sunday - - THE WORLD - BY ISAAC STAN­LEY-BECKER AND ALEXAN­DRA ROJKOV isaac.stan­ley­becker@wash­post.com

ber­lin — The 26-year-old man ac­cused of car­ry­ing out a stab­bing ram­page Fri­day at a Ham­burg su­per­mar­ket had been re­ported to se­cu­rity forces as a rad­i­cal­ized Is­lamist, but he also suf­fered psy­cho­log­i­cal prob­lems, po­lice said Satur­day.

Au­thor­i­ties had not thought that the man, a Palestinian from the United Arab Emi­rates, posed an im­mi­nent threat, they said. But Fri­day’s knife at­tack left a 50-yearold man dead and five peo­ple wounded, Ham­burg po­lice said. A sixth per­son was in­jured at­tempt­ing to over­come the sus­pect, who fled but was ar­rested at the scene in the Barm­bek neigh­bor­hood of the north­ern Ger­man port city.

Ham­burg po­lice said that the man, whose name they did not re­lease, was act­ing alone and that his mo­tive re­mains un­known.

Still, the at­tack in­stantly re­newed a po­lit­i­cal de­bate over Ger­many’s asy­lum poli­cies and whether a harsh enough line has been taken against crim­i­nals and mi­grants whose re­quests for asy­lum are turned down.

A com­mis­sion is prob­ing the case, and a psy­cho­log­i­cal in­ves­ti­ga­tion is be­ing con­ducted be­fore charges — prob­a­bly mur­der and at­tempted mur­der — are filed, said Jörg Fröh­lich, Ham­burg’s state pros­e­cu­tor. Of­fi­cials said that the man’s asy­lum re­quest had been re­jected but that his de­por­ta­tion had been de­layed be­cause he did not have iden­tity pa­pers. They said he was liv­ing in a refugee home in Ham­burg.

“On the one hand, there are in­di­ca­tions that he acted based on re­li­gious Is­lamist mo­tives, and on the other hand, there are in­di­ca­tions of psy­cho­log­i­cal in­sta­bil­ity,” said Andy Grote, the in­te­rior min­is­ter of Ham­burg, at a news con­fer­ence Satur­day.

The man’s only run-in with po­lice came in April, pros­e­cu­tors said, af­ter he was caught shoplift­ing. The case was dis­missed. Be­fore that, a friend of the man had alerted se­cu­rity of­fi­cials to his pos­si­ble rad­i­cal­iza­tion, said Torsten Voss, head of Ham­burg’s state in­tel­li­gence agency. But Grote said the threat level was con­sid­ered low; specif­i­cally, he was clas­si­fied as an Is­lamist, not a ji­hadist.

The ques­tion of how a man known to au­thor­i­ties slipped through the cracks is po­lit­i­cally vexed, com­ing less than two months be­fore an elec­tion in which Ger­many’s cen­ter-right chan­cel­lor, An­gela Merkel, is seek­ing a fourth term. It car­ries echoes of an at­tack in De­cem­ber 2016 when a failed asy­lum seeker, Anis Amri, drove a truck into a Christ­mas mar­ket in Ber­lin. The Is­lamic State claimed re­spon­si­bil­ity for that at­tack.

“What else has to hap­pen in or­der for pol­i­tics and so­ci­ety to fi­nally re­think?” asked Alexan­der Gauland, one of two lead­ing can­di­dates for the far-right Al­ter­na­tive for Ger­many party.

Merkel re­leased a state­ment ex­press­ing grief for the vic­tim and promis­ing, “The act of vi­o­lence must and will be clar­i­fied.”

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