German authorities report a knife attack in the city of Wurzburg on the 25th of this month, stating three deaths and five serious injuries, and a number of others sustaining milder injuries. Police identified the suspect as a 24 year old Somali man living in Wurzburg. He was shot and subdued, the shot being reported as non lethal and not posing a threat to his life according to a spokeswoman. “The attacker was overpowered after the police used firearms,” said police on Twitter.
Bavaria’s top security official Joachim Herrmann said the injured include a young boy, whose father was probably among the dead. He also stated that the suspect was in psychiatric treatment before the attack and had been known to the police. Investigators have found documentation showing the man “was treated in a psychiatric institution”, said Mr. Herrmann, but added that he could not give details on the length of the stay.
As for the victims, Mr. Hermann states that “As things stand, three are dead and five very seriously injured,” and “With the most seriously injured we are not sure they will survive.”
Videos posted on social media showed pedestrians surrounding the attacker and holding him at bay with chairs and sticks in Barbarossa Square, the centre of the Bavarian city. Julia Runze, woman who said she had witnessed the incident, told German RTL television that the police then stepped in. She stated that “He had a really big knife with him and was attacking people, and then many people tried to throw chairs or umbrellas or cellphones at him and stop him.” She ended her statement with the fact that the police then approached him and a shot was fired.
Bavarian State Premier Markus Söder described the incident as terrible and shocking on Twitter. He added: “We mourn with the victims and their families. We share fear and hope with the injured.” He also thanked the police for their quick intervention.
After the attacker was subdued and taken in, the police tweeted confirmation of arresting the suspect, adding that "There are no indications of a second suspect. There is no danger to the population." They also said they had arrested the attacker after a "major operation" in which parts of the city centre were sealed off. The city centre has since been reopened, with DW reporter Elizabeth Jahn tweeting “Only water left on the ground pretty much all over Barbarossaplatz – where the fire brigade washed away the traces of this horrific event.”
Investigators are looking into the motivation for the attack. According to a police spokesperson, the suspect is not known to the police for crimes that “lean in the direction of Islamic extremism.” “Naturally, we need to compile all the evidence that we can,” the spokesperson added. Herrmann said that he is not excluding any possibility. “In any case, there is circumstantial evidence that this could have been an Islamist attack.”
Herrmann cited a witness who alleged that the attacker had shouted the common Islamic phrase “Allahu Akbar,” which means “God is great.”
Police urged people to refrain from speculation and not to share videos of the incident on social media after footage emerged, appearing to show the attack. “Respect the privacy of the victims,” the Lower Franconia police force tweeted, adding that more information will follow.