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Hamburg

Was the Hamburg knife-attacker a known Islamist?

A migrant that stormed a supermarket in Hamburg, Germany, stabbed one shopper to death and injured several others, according to police.

Published: July 29, 2017, 10:40 am

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    The migrant ran into the supermarket and began attacking customers with a “long kitchen knife”, Reuters reported. Police identified the attacker as a man born in the United Arab Emirates, but did not give details about his citizenship.

    The 26-year-old, who was supposed to leave the country, killed a 50-year-old shopper and left six others injured, police and city officials confirmed. Surprisingly, the homicide squad has taken over the investigation and not the counter-terrorism unit, police authorities announced.

    But a video on a website of a German tabloid, showed a helicopter landing outside the supermarket with heavily armed police being deployed.

    German tabloid Bild reported late on Friday that armed police forces had also searched the migrant housing center where the attacker had lived. According the newspaper Tagesspiegel, the attacker was known to authorities as an Islamist.

    Streets were closed off after the attack and law enforcement asked people to steer clear of the area. The supermarket where the attack took place was located at the intersection of Fuhlsbüttler street and Hermann-Kauffmann street in a northeast neighbourhood in the northern port city.

    Hamburg Mayor Olaf Scholz said in a statement that the assailant was “apparently a foreigner who was supposed to leave the country,” but could not be deported because he did not have any identification papers.

    “It’s also infuriating that this perpetrator is someone who asked for protection in Germany and then turned his hate against us,” Scholz said.

    The blood-soaked attacker was arrested soon after his killing spree on Friday afternoon in the Barmbek neighbourhood of Hamburg. Police captured the suspected killer as he attempted to flee.

    According to German weekly Spiegel, the assailant had fled in the direction of the Barmbek metro station but was slowed down by witnesses, allowing police to make their arrest.

    “Passersby threw chairs and other objects at the attacker as he fled the scene, enabling plain clothes police officers to take him into custody near the store, according to police and videos posted on Twitter,” Reuters reported.

    A witness to the attack said that the attacker screamed “Allahu Akbar!” immediately after the attack.

    The attack at the Edeka Supermarket which killed the 50-year-old woman saw four men aged 64, 57, 56 and 19 suffering from stabbing injuries. A 35-year-old man was injured while tackling the attacker, police said.

    Police spokesperson Timo Zill confirmed that a kitchen knife was used in the stabbing, which he described as “indiscriminate” and “totally unexpected.”

    Photographs published by Bild showed the detained suspect, drenched in blood and wearing a spit mask. A spit mask is a restraint device intended to prevent someone from spitting or biting.

    The masks protect police from exposure to risk of serious infections. In London, 59 percent of injecting drug users test positive for Hepatitis C.

    The spit masks have been criticised in Britain for “breaching human rights guidelines” and critics call the masks “primitive, cruel and degrading”.

    A decision by the Metropolitan Police Service in London to start using spit hoods was condemned by the human rights group Amnesty International, the civil rights group Liberty and the campaign group Inquest. Many major British police forces have chosen to outlaw spit hoods.

    Spit masks can be life threatening, according to Swedish investigators.

    Germany is heading for parliamentary elections on September 24. While Chancellor Angela Merkel is set to win a fourth term despite her open-door policy to welcome close to two million migrants, security has been the main focus in the campaign.

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