BERLIN, July 24, (Agencies): A 21-year-old Syrian refugee was arrested after killing a woman with a machete and injuring two other people in the southern German city of Reutlingen on Sunday, but the attack had no apparent connection to terrorism, police said.
The asylum-seeking Syrian man had been involved in previous incidents causing injuries to other people, and was apparently acting alone, a police spokesman said. The spokesman had no immediate information on when the man arrived in Germany, or when the previous incidents took place.
“There is no danger to anyone else at this time,” he said. “Given the current evidence, there is no indication that this was a terrorist attack,” police said in a statement. It was the fourth act of violence against civilians in western Europe — and the third in southern Germany — in 10 days.
Two of the attacks were claimed by Islamic State militants.
In Sunday’s incident, the Syrian man attacked two women and a man at around 4:30 pm (1430 GMT) near the central bus station in Reutlingen, about 40 kms (25 miles) south of Stuttgart, according to a police statement. One of the women later died of her wounds, it said.
The mass-circulation newspaper Bild said the woman was pregnant. “The attacker was completely out of his mind. He even ran after a police car with his machete,” Bild quoted a witness as saying. The witness told Bild a private motorist knocked down the attacker soon afterward and he was then taken into custody by police. On Friday, a deranged 18-year-old Iranian-German who was obsessed with mass killings shot dead nine people in Munich before turning his gun on himself as police approached.
On July 18, a 17-year-old youth who had sought asylum in Germany was shot dead by police after wounding four people from Hong Kong, some of them severely, with an axe on a train and injuring a local resident near the city of Wuerzburg.
Four days before, a Tunisian delivery man drove a large truck into crowds celebrating Bastille Day in the French Riviera city of Nice, killing 84 people. Islamic State claimed responsibility for the Wuerzburg and Nice attacks. German police said the Munich gunman had no link with militant Islam or the issue of refugees in Germany. The teenager who shot dead nine people at a Munich shopping mall spent a year planning the rampage but selected his victims at random, officials said Sunday.
Details are emerging of gunman David Ali Sonboly as a depressed 18-year-old who was obsessed with mass killings and had long struggled with his mental health. Friday’s shooting spree sparked a terror alert, with Europe on edge following a string of attacks claimed by the Islamic State (IS) group, but investigators have ruled out that Sonboly had any link with the jihadists.
However, he appears to have planned the assault with chilling precision, with Bavarian police chief Robert Heimberger telling a press conference Sunday that Sonboly had visited the site and taken photos during a year of preparation.
Chief prosecutor Thomas Steinkraus-Koch added that the gunman had not “deliberately selected” his victims, dismissing speculation that Sonbaly sought to target foreigners. Most of the dead — who were mainly teenagers — were foreign nationals.
They included a Turk, two Turkish-German dual nationals, a Hungarian, a Kosovan and a Greek, according to police. Sonboly killed himself after his murderous spree with the 9mm Glock pistol he had bought on the internet.
His attack, which began at a McDonald’s branch, also left 35 people injured. Steinkraus-Koch said Sonboly had spent two months in a psychiatric unit last year. He suffered anxiety attacks and “social phobias”, according to documents found in his bedroom.
Police also found medication, but it was not clear whether he had been taking it. He had continued treatment as an outpatient after his release from hospital. He also appeared to have been a victim of bullying by other pupils at his school, filing a complaint against three of his tormentors in 2012.
But none of these youngsters were among the shooting spree victims, police stressed. They added there was no evidence that any of the dead were lured to the McDonald’s branch by promises of discounts that Sonboly had sent out from a fake Facebook account, an act Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere has described as “particularly underhand”.
Sonboly was obsessed with Anders Behring Breivik, whose massacre of 77 people in Norway came exactly five years before his own shooting spree. But police also believe the teenager was influenced by a previous shooting in Winnenden, southwest Germany in 2009, when a 17-year-old shot 15 people in his former school before killing himself. Born to Iranian parents who came to Germany in the 1990s as asylum-seekers, Sonboly lived in social housing in Munich’s well-heeled Maxvorstadt neighbourhood.
Video footage from Friday apparently shows Sonboly on a car park roof in a heated exchange with a man on a nearby balcony. “I’m German, I was born here,” the blackclad assailant replies after the man swore at him, using curse words for foreigners. Of Shiite Muslim origin, Sonboly appears to have converted to Christianity. The killings have sparked a debate about whether Germany’s strict gun laws should be tightened further, and the fact that Sonboly was able to acquire the pistol online will raise questions over how to stop others from doing the same. Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel, in an interview with the Funke press group, called for a maximum effort to “restrict access to lethal weapons and monitor it closely”. European leaders swiftly voiced solidarity with Germany as the terror alert was launched — a sign of the jittery mood after a string of jihadist assaults.
The attack came just four days after a 17-year-old asylum seeker went on a rampage with an axe and a knife on a train in Bavaria, injuring five people. He was believed to be a “lone wolf” Afghan or Pakistani inspired by IS. And it occurred just over a week after a Tunisian used a truck to mow down 84 people after a Bastille Day fireworks display in Nice, the third major attack on French soil in the past 18 months. IS described Nice gunman Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel as one of its “soldiers”, though investigators have not found direct proof of his allegiance to the jihadists.