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German police rule out terrorism in Bavaria train attack

Alex Berry
November 7, 2021

The man who stabbed four people on a German train on Saturday is believed to have been suffering from delusions that people were "following him." Police have not found any link to terrorist motivation for the attack.

Emergency services treating passengers from the train
Nobody was killed in the stabbing attack and police arrested the suspect without resistanceImage: Angelika Warmuth/dpa/picture alliance

The man who stabbed four people on a train in the southern state of Bavaria on Saturday did so "indiscriminately," police said during a press conference Sunday presenting the first results of their investigation into the attack. 

Prosecutor Gerhard Neuhof said the suspect had been suffering from delusions and a preliminary mental health evaluation has indicated he likely suffers from a psychiatric disorder. Police have said there is no basis for a terrorist motive for the stabbing.

The suspect was arrested without resisting and had pleaded for "help" during the incident, he added. He was taken into psychiatric care on Sunday.

"There are no indications of an Islamist background" to the attack, said Sabine Nagel, the criminal director of Oberpfalz in Bavaria. She stressed that the investigation was still in its early stages.

Three men aged between 26 and 60 were injured in the stabbing that took place on the high-speed ICE train traveling from the Bavarian city Passau to Hamburg. Two of the injured are still being treated at a hospital. 

What do we know about the suspect?

The 27-year-old suspect has been living in Germany since 2014 as a refugee, having come from war-torn Syria. He has been living in Passau and had recently lost his job, police said. 

Emergency services escorting one of the victims of the stabbing attack
Police said the suspect was suffering from paranoid schizophreniaImage: Fabian Schreiner/dpa/picture alliance

Neuhof said that preliminary assessments had concluded the suspect suffers from a form of schizophrenia and that he believed people were following him. The suspect claims he had felt threatened by a man on the train, the prosecutor added.

Police were unable to find anything suspicious during a search of his home. They were still waiting on an analysis of the suspect's phone records. The suspect had one run-in with the law for a misdemeanor in 2020.

How did the events unfold on the train?

Some 208 people were on board the train at the time of the attack. The suspect had moved from one carriage to another before police apprehended him.

Local police president Norbert Zink thanked other passengers who helped to stop the attacker from injuring more people.

The violence had not been preceded by an argument, dpa reported.

A folding knife with an 8 centimeter (3.1 inch) blade is believed to have been the weapon used in the attack after being found on the suspect. According to police, the suspect said he had regularly carried the knife for protection, claimed he had felt threatened for a long time.