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Girl sentenced to six years for stabbing officer

January 26, 2017

A court has sentenced a 16-year-old girl to six years in jail for committing an act of terrorism. Investigators called the crime a "martyrdom operation" ordered by the "Islamic State," the first on German soil.

Polizei Safia S. Messerattacke in Hannover
Image: Polizei

The German regional court in Celle sentenced Safia S. to six years in prison on Thursday on charges of attempted murder, grievous bodily harm, and support for a foreign terrorist organization. The judge cited the teenager's mobile phone chats as proof of her intent to kill on behalf of the "Islamic State" (IS). 

The Federal Prosecutors Office sought a six-year jail term for Safia S. The defense team pushed for a ruling solely on aggravated assault.

The defense has already announced intent to appeal after calling the ruling too severe and the knife attack exclusively grievous bodily harm without intent to kill.

The defense also disputed that Safia S. supported IS, stating that radical attackers do not apologize to their victims. The defendant had previously admitted to the attack and wrote an apology letter to her victim while in custody.

Due to Safia's age, the trial and the court's ruling was not open to the public.

On February 26, 2016, the then 15-year-old defendant stabbed a police officer in the neck with a vegetable knife at Hannover's main train station. A federal investigation concluded her act was intended as a "martyrdom operation" undertaken for the foreign terrorist organization IS.

The girl's victim, a 34-year-old police officer, suffered life-threatening injuries but survived after undergoing surgery.

Prosecutors first argued that IS militants ordered the attack, but the group never claimed responsibility for it.

A 20-year-old German-Syrian, Mohamad Hasan K., was convicted as an accessory to Safia's crime for not revealing possible knowledge of the attack plan and sentenced to juvenile detention for two-and-a-half years. The prosecutors had sought a three-year jail term for him. Prosecutors are also still investigating separate charges against him in relation to the terror plan that caused the cancellation of a Hannover football game in November 2015.

Radicalized at a young age

By 2008, at the age of seven, the German-Moroccan girl had appeared in YouTube videos with German Salafist preacher Pierre Vogel. In 2015, Safia S. made internet contact with an "IS" fighter in Syria.

She then attempted in travel to Syria in January of 2016, though she only reached Istanbul before her mother retrieved her. Prosecutors claimed an "IS" member she met while in the Turkish city persuaded her to carry out an attack in Germany in the name of the terror group.

Known to the authorities

The German police was aware of Safia, whose older brother had been detained during his own trip to Syria in January 2015. Authorities had been in touch with the family multiple times before Safia S. stabbed the police officer - even waiting for the girl and her mother upon their return from Turkey. The fact that Safia still managed to conduct an attack added to the criticism of federal anti-terrorism measures that has increased sharply since the Berlin Christmas market bombing. 

cmb/sms (Reuters, epd, dpa, KNA)