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Man goes on chainsaw rampage in Schaffhausen, Switzerland

A forest-dwelling loner who attacked several people with a chainsaw in the city of Schaffhausen could have fled to Germany. Authorities are still searching for the suspect.

Five people were injured, two of them seriously, in a chainsaw attack on a Swiss insurer on Monday, police said.

Security forces identified the chainsaw-wielding attacker and were intensively searching for a 1.90-meter (6 foot, 3-inch) tall man with "unkempt appearance," according to a police spokeswoman.

Police said the offender was a 52-year-old man with a criminal history and no fixed address who reportedly spent significant time living in a forest. 

"This is a dangerous and aggressive man," the chief of security in Schaffhausen, Ravi Landoldt, told reporters. "This was not his first contact with police."

The man was detained in 2014 and again in 2016 for weapons violations, police said.

Authorities warned people not to go near the crime scene in Schaffhausen's old town.

"We have no idea where he currently is," Landolt said. He said the man could have fled over the nearby border to Germany, and he added that German police were also involved in the search. 

The suspect was seen driving a white Volkswagen. The police later found the car but the suspect was still on the run, they said. Twitter user Sebastian Kummer posted the picture of police blocking off the area.

Target was a health insurer

The attacker apparently entered a building housing offices of the CSS health insurer and attacked two people.

"We can confirm that a man with a chainsaw came into the agency and seriously wounded two of our employees," said company spokeswoman Christina Wettstein. "They are undergoing operations at the moment and we don't know how they are."

According to Swiss news tabloid Blick, the authorities deployed security forces, ambulances and a helicopter to the old town and sealed off the area. The area was evacuated.

"The police were there quickly," bakery employee Maria Antonocci told the Swiss daily Blick. "They said to send everyone out and close the door. It's disturbing that something like this is happening in Schaffhausen."

Swiss police said that the attack was not a terrorist act.

The city of Schaffhausen has a population of some 35,000 people . It is located in northern Switzerland, near the German border.

Dog-walker's forest encounter

A woman who walks her dog in the woods just south of the city said she had seen the suspect several times in the past few weeks.

"I talked to him a few times and walked by his car every day with our dog," Therese Karrer, who lives in the small village of Uhwiesen, was quoted as saying by the Associated Press.

Karrer said the man had showed up three or four weeks ago in the forest and chatted with her once when he was having breakfast. She said "he may have been a little strange, but he wasn't unfriendly - I never felt threatened."

dj/rc (Reuters, AFP, AP, dpa)