The axe and knife-wielding assailant whose rampage on a German train yesterday reduced it to a virtual slaughterhouse, was a 17-year-old recent Afghan refugee who reportedly shouted “Allahu akbar” before he began slashing at passengers. On a train carrying around 25 people, four were seriously injured and another 14 were treated for shock. A passerby is also fighting for her life after being axed in the head by the teenage terrorist as he tried to flee. He was shot dead by police after going after them with the axe.
ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was carried out by one of its fighters. The Islamic State released video footage of a youthful, knife-wielding terrorist making threats, but it has not been verified that the person in the video was the train attacker. It was posted by Islamic State’s news agency, Amaq.
The facts as we know them so far, via the AFP:
Media reports identified the attacker as Riaz A. He boarded the train and soon after went to the onboard toilet, emerging moments later with the axe and knife drawn.
Shortly before the train pulled into Wuerzburg, the teenager began shouting “Allahu akbar” (God is greatest) and slashing passengers, gravely injuring the four tourists. One of them is in critical condition.
A passenger pulled the train’s emergency break and the assailant ran to evade special police forces, who were deployed nearby by chance.
He attacked a woman walking her dog along the river while trying to evade police. Prosecutors said he shouted “I’ll get you, you bitch” as he brought the axe down on the head of the victim, who is also now fighting for her life.
The four seriously injured victims on the train are members of the same family from Hong Kong, authorities said. Witnesses compared the carriage to “a slaughterhouse”, with the victims’ blood splattered all over the floor.
“Riaz A.” arrived in Germany in June 2015 as an “unaccompanied minor” (if that sounds familiar.) He was placed in a shelter in the Wuerzburg region in March and then settled with a foster family.
Locals described him as “calm and even-keeled” and a “devout Muslim” who “did not appear to be radical or a fanatic”.
However investigators found a hand-painted Islamic State group flag in his room as well as a letter, believed to be a farewell message to his father in Afghanistan, in which he discussed the situation of the world’s Muslims, saying they “must defend themselves”.
Riaz A. had worked as an apprentice in a bakery and had a good chance of getting a long-term training position common in German trades, Bavarian social affairs minister Emilia Mueller told DPA news agency.
IS-linked Amaq news agency put out a statement claiming responsibility: “The perpetrator of the stabbing attack in Germany was one of the fighters of the Islamic State,” Amaq said. It added, “he carried out this operation responding to calls to target countries of the coalition fighting IS.”
“It is quite probable that this was an Islamist attack,” a ministry spokesman said. He also stressed that the investigation was ongoing and that the assailant appeared to have acted alone.