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Mannheim knife attack: Authorities suspect Islamist motive

June 4, 2024

German federal prosecutors have begun investigating a knife attack which left a police officer dead in Mannheim. On Monday, thousands of people gathered in the southwestern German city to pay their respects.

Two police officers survey the crime scene on the main square in Mannheim on May 31, 2024.
Police are investigating the deadly knife attack that took place on the main square in Mannheim on FridayImage: Rene Priebe/dpa/picture alliance

German authorities say they believe there was an Islamist motive behind a knife attack at an anti-Islam rally in the southwestern German city of Mannheim on Friday during which a police officer was killed.

The federal prosecutor, Germany's highest prosecuting authority with responsibility for terrorism, espionage and international criminal law, is taking on the case due to its "particular importance," a spokeswoman said.

She said the suspected attacker, a 25-year-old Afghan national and nine-year German resident who was shot by police and remains in the hospital, is suspected to have wanted to prevent critics of Islam from exercising their right to freedom of expression.

The suspect, who reportedly had no criminal record and was not known to German law enforcement, faces possible charges of murder, attempted murder and five counts of serious bodily harm.

Mannheim knife attack: Police suspect Islamist motive

'Clear indications of an Islamist motive'

Justice Minister Marco Buschmann of the Free Democrats (FDP), the junior pro-business partner in Germany's current coalition government, wrote on the social network X, formerly Twitter, that there were "clear indications of an Islamist motive."

He added that "Islam belongs to Germany, but Islamism does not" and said that "the danger posed by religious fanaticism and radical Islamism remains large."

Other FDP politicians demanded that Muslim community groups do more to combat extremism.

"Islamic groups and clergy cannot duck away from the fight against Islamism," Konstantin Kuhle, chair of the FDP's parliamentary group, told German media on Tuesday.

Mannheim: Thousands gather to mourn

Meanwhile, around 8,000 people gathered in Mannheim on Monday to pay their respects to the 29-year-old police officer who on Sunday succumbed to injuries sustained from stab wounds.

The event was organized by a broad cross-section of Mannheim society including Christian, Muslim and Jewish religious leaders and local politicians.

"The death of this young person fills us all with grief, tears us apart and robs us of words," said local Catholic deacon Karl Jung, while Mustafa Aydinli, the imam of Mannheim's Muslim Community, called on citizens to stick together because "God wants us to live in peace."

"Respect for police officers, no room for racism!" Thousands gathered in Mannheim to pay their respects on June 3, 2024.
Thousands gather in Mannheim to pay their respectsImage: Uli Deck/dpa/picture alliance

Scholz to address parliament on security 

After saying on Sunday that he was "deeply dismayed" by the death of the police officer, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz is due to make a statement on national security to the German parliament, the Bundestag, on Thursday, according to a Chancellery letter seen by the German DPA news agency.

However, it's unclear whether the subject of Scholz's address will be domestic security in the wake of the attack in Mannheim or foreign policy following his recent decision to allow Ukraine to use German weapons to strike military targets within Russia's internationally-recognized borders.

High alert ahead of European elections and Euro 2024

Domestically, Germany has been on high alert for possible Islamist attacks since the outbreak of war between Israel and Hamas on October 7, 2023.

With European Parliamentary elections on June 9 and football's European Championships kicking off in Germany one week later, the country's domestic intelligence chief warned that the risk of such assaults is "real and higher than it has been for a long time."

German Finance Minister Christian Lindner (FDP) told daily tabloid newspaper Bild that "we must defend ourselves against Islamist terrorism with determination" while Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock (Greens) urged colleagues not to instrumentalize the attack by demanding tougher migration laws.

"If the aim of extremists, whether far-right or Islamist, is to split a free society, then the answer has to be that we answer together as a society," she said at an event in Düsseldorf organized by the local Rheinische Post newspaper on Monday evening.

"Of course I was deeply affected," she said of the Mannheim attack, but still urged German society and democracy not to allow itself to be "destroyed by hate, violence and murderous intent."

mf/rmt (AFP, dpa, Reuters, KNA)

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