German politicians slow to react to Würzburg attack | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 19.07.2016
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German politicians slow to react to Würzburg attack

Berlin officials have been noticeably quiet following the bloody attack in Würzburg. One, however, has drawn backlash. In Munich, Bavaria's interior minister sounded a warning bell.

A 17-year-old Afghan refugee severely injured several train passengers late Monday evening in Würzburg. Wielding an ax and knife, he was shot dead by police. Some of the victims' lives hang in the balance. Despite being "breaking news," many Germans didn’t hear about it until the next day.

It’s the summer recess in Berlin. It took awhile until government officials reacted to the incident. Only Tuesday morning did a cabinet minister respond, but that was for Nice, not Würzburg. Four days elapsed until Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier announced three of the dead in France were German - two students and a teacher from Berlin.

'Standing with our European partners'

The "terrible attack" in Nice shows that "terror doesn’t distinguish among people. Therefore, our message is we won’t let it intimidate us, and we continue to stand with our European and international partners against hate, violence and terror," Steinmeier said.

Those who regularly tweet from the cabinet room have stayed quiet. Minister of Justice and Consumer Protection Heiko Maas said nothing until 1 p.m.

Brutal crime in #Wuerzburg. Our thoughts with the victims. Must be immediately investigated. Radicals must be confronted wherever they’re from

Four question marks

The Green Party’s Renate Künast, who served as consumer protection minister from 2001-2005, beat Maas to the punch. Her first tweet came just past midnight, a mere two hours after the attack.

Tragic, we are with the injured. Why couldn’t the attacker have been incapacitated? Questions! #Würzburg

The backlash was swift. The head of Germany's police union, Rainer Wendt, told broadcaster N24 police were going conduct a thorough investigation of the incident, and "parliamentary smart alecks" were were not necessary.

Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann made a brief reference to Künast’s comment, calling it "strange," but otherwise warned against speculation and the consequences of early judgment. He thanked the police and focused on the Chinese victims of the attack.

Herrmann added that such an incident is "extremely difficult to stop."

"We can’t put a police officer in every train car," he said.

'Attacks must be assumed'

Würzburg lies within the southern state of Bavaria, meaning Herrmann is responsible for dealing with situations like Monday's attack. A spokesman for the Federal Interior Ministry told DW the "general threat assessment remains unchanged," but added Germany is already in Islamist crosshairs. "Attacks by small groups and radicalized individuals should be assumed." As usual, there were no further details about additional security measures.

Chancellor Angela Merkel makes her next Berlin appearance on Wednesday evening to greet the new British Prime Minister, Theresa May. Brexit is the focus, but Merkel will surely be asked about Würzburg. She’s off to vacation shortly thereafter, but terrorism is getting closer to Germany.

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