BERLIN (AFP) - Several people were injured in an attack by a man wielding a knife on a bus in northern Germany, officials said on Friday (July 20), although his motive remained unclear.
The packed bus was heading in the direction of Travemuende, a popular beach destination close to the city of Luebeck, when a man pulled a weapon on passengers, Luebeck chief prosecutor Ulla Hingst said.
“The exact number of the injured is still unclear, there is one person who’s seriously injured, but luckily no one was killed,” she added.
The bus driver had immediately stopped the vehicle, allowing passengers to escape.
“The passengers jumped out of the bus and were screaming. It was terrible. Then the injured were brought out. The perpetrator had a kitchen knife,” a witness who lives close to the scene, Lothar H., told the local daily, Luebecker Nachrichten.
An unnamed female passenger on the bus said one of those injured had only just given up his seat to an elderly woman, “when the perpetrator stabbed him in the chest.”
A police car which happened to be close by arrived at the scene quickly, allowing officers to detain the assailant, the newspaper reported.
Hingst said the man is a 34-year-old German national but that he may have been born elsewhere.
Luebecker Nachrichten had earlier reported that the attacker is an Iranian man in his mid-30s.
The prosecutor meanwhile added that “the background (of the attack) is unclear, we are investigating in all directions, we can not rule anything out at the moment.”
Police from the state of Schleswig-Holstein said on Twitter that “people were injured. No one was killed. The perpetrator was overpowered and is now in police custody.”
While the motive of the perpetrator has not yet been established, Germany has been on high alert after several deadly Islamist extremist attacks.
MILITANT ATTACK RISK
Security services had long warned of the threat of more violence after several attacks claimed by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militant group, the bloodiest of which was a truck rampage through a Berlin Christmas market in December 2016 that left 12 people dead.
The attacker, Tunisian asylum seeker Anis Amri, hijacked a truck and murdered its Polish driver before killing another 11 people and wounding dozens more by ploughing the heavy vehicle through the festive market in central Berlin.
He was shot dead by Italian police in Milan four days later while on the run.
Germany has since been targeted again in attacks with radical Islamist motives.
In July 2017, a 26-year-old Palestinian asylum seeker wielding a knife stormed into a supermarket in the northern port city of Hamburg, killing one person and wounding six others before being detained by passers-by.
German prosecutors said the man likely had a “radical Islamist” motive.
ISIS also claimed responsibility for a number of attacks in 2016, including the murder of a teenager in Hamburg, a suicide bombing in the southern city of Ansbach that wounded 15, and an axe attack on a train in Bavaria that left five injured.
In June, German police said they foiled what would have been the first biological attack with the arrest of a Tunisian suspected militant in possession of the deal poison ricin and bomb-making material.
Germany remains a target for militant groups, in particular because of its involvement in the coalition fighting ISIS in Iraq and Syria, and its deployment in Afghanistan since 2001.
Security services estimate there are around 11,000 Islamic radicals in Germany, some 980 who are deemed particularly dangerous and capable of using violence. A hundred and fifty of these potentially dangerous individuals have been detained for various offences.
Chancellor Angela Merkel has allowed in more than one million asylum seekers since 2015 – a decision that has driven the rise of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, which charges that the influx spells a heightened security risk.