ANSBACH, GERMANY (REUTERS, AFP) – German authorities said Monday (July 25) they found a video on the mobile phone of a Syrian suicide bomber who blew himself up in Germany in which he "pledged allegiance" to Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
The militant group later claimed that the man was one of its "soldiers".
“A provisional translation by an interpreter shows that he expressly announces, in the name of Allah, and testifying his allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, a famous Islamist leader, an act of revenge against the Germans because they’re getting in the way of Islam,” Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann said at a news conference.
The 27-year-old Syrian man denied asylum in Germany a year ago blew himself up on Sunday (July 24) outside a crowded music festival, injuring 12 people in the country’s fourth violent attack on members of the public in less than a week.
The incident, on top of three other attacks since July 18 that left 10 people dead and 34 injured, will fuel growing public unease about Chancellor Angela Merkel’s open-door refugee policy. More than a million migrants have entered Germany over the past year, many fleeing war in Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq.
Police said three of the 12 wounded were in a serious condition after the attack in Ansbach, a town of 40,000 people south-west of Nuremberg that has a US Army base.
The dead man had been in treatment after twice before trying to kill himself, though Sunday evening’s explosion was more than just “a pure suicide attempt”, Herrmann told Reuters.
An Islamist link could not be ruled out, he told reporters earlier. “It’s terrible ... that someone who came into our country to seek shelter has now committed such a heinous act and injured a large number of people who are at home here, some seriously,” Herrmann told a news conference early on Monday.
“It’s a further, horrific attack that will increase the already growing security concerns of our citizens. We must do everything possible to prevent the spread of such violence in our country by people who came here to ask for asylum.”
Herrmann told Reuters the recent attacks raised serious questions about Germany’s asylum law and security nationwide.
He planned to introduce measures at a meeting of Bavaria’s conservative government on Tuesday to strengthen police forces, in part by ensuring they have adequate equipment.
Herrmann said the Syrian asylum seeker arrived in Germany two years ago and had been in trouble with local police repeatedly for drug-taking and other offences.
He added that as the man's rucksack and bomb were packed with so many metal parts that could have killed and injured many more others, it could not simply be considered "a pure suicide attempt”.
It was the second violent incident in Germany on Sunday and the fourth in the past week, including the killing of nine people by a deranged 18-year-old Iranian-German gunman in the Bavarian capital Munich on Friday.
EXPLOSIVES, METAL PARTS
Herrmann said the man, whose identity has not yet been released, had been living in Ansbach for a year. Although his application for asylum had been denied, he was not in danger of being deported immediately given the civil war in Syria.
One US intelligence official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said investigators would focus on what the bomber was doing before he left Syria and why he was denied asylum.
Herrmann said the man had been denied entry to the Ansbach Open music festival shortly before detonating the bomb outside a restaurant.
More than 2,000 people were evacuated from the festival after the explosion, police said.
Ansbach resident Thomas Debinski said people panicked when they heard the explosion, especially after the events of the past week, and it soon became clear that someone had set off a bomb in a rucksack.
Earlier on Sunday, a 21-year-old Syrian refugee was arrested after killing a pregnant woman and wounding two people with a machete in the south-western city of Reutlingen, near Stuttgart. “After what just happened in Munich, and today in Reutlingen, what you hear about, it is very disturbing, when you know that such a thing can happen so close to you, in such a small town as Ansbach,” Debinski said.
A week ago a 17-year-old youth who had sought asylum in Germany was shot dead by police after wounding five people with an axe near Wuerzburg, also in Bavaria. He was initially thought to be Afghan but federal Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere has since said he may have been from Pakistan.
ISIS claimed responsibility for the Wuerzburg attack as well as the July 14 rampage in the French Riviera city of Nice in which a Tunisian man drove a truck into Bastille Day crowds, killing 84 people.