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Police not ruling out terror in Cologne hostage taking

October 15, 2018

Police have rescued a hostage taken in a pharmacy at Cologne's central station. The perpetrator is in intensive care after being shot during the operation. Officials said they could not rule out terrorism as a motive.

A police commando stands alert near Cologne's central station
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/O. Berg

Cologne police spokesman: 'Special forces brought this to a close'

A woman was held hostage by a man for two hours at a pharmacy in Cologne's central railway station on Monday. Police stormed the pharmacy and ended the situation, shooting the individual several times.

Klaus Rüschenschmidt, who led the police operation, said the perpetrator had initially thrown a Molotov cocktail inside a fast-food restaurant in the station, injuring a 14-year-old. An eyewitness told DW's David Martin at the scene that the young woman fled the restaurant with her legs on fire. She was taken to the hospital.

The assailant then "fled to the pharmacy, where he took a hostage," Rüschenschmidt said. When special forces intervened, the man "attempted to set light to the hostage." 

Homemade bombs

Police spokesman Klaus-Stephan Becker said investigators had found a document belonging to a 55-year-old Syrian asylum seeker in the pharmacy, which "likely belonged to the perpetrator now being treated in hospital."

The man demanded the release from custody of a Tunisian woman, and was reported to have said he was a member "Daesh," an Arabic acronym for the "Islamic State" militant group. He had camping gas canisters with him that were stuck together with adhesive tape, as well as bottles of fire accelerant.

Authorities said the perpetrator sustained life-threatening injuries and emergency personnel had to revive him with CPR. The hostage received medical treatment for light injuries.

Major disruption

Authorities ordered an evacuation of the station, which is a main hub for rail traffic across Germany and Western Europe. The man, who had left luggage behind at the restaurant, was said to have a history of criminal acts, including theft and drug offenses.

Read more: German hostage drama: The day the press became the story

Deutsche Bahn announced that the station would be closed until further notice and all traffic — including long-distance — has been suspended.

Police appealed to locals to avoid the area for the time being.

ls, law, rc/rt (AFP, dpa, AP, Reuters)

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