A 17-year-old Afghan asylum seeker suspected of an ax attack on a German commuter train was a “fighter” of the Islamic State, the terrorist group’s news agency said Tuesday, but German authorities said they found no evidence of direct communication between the militant group and the suspect.
The Islamic State claim came just hours after the attack that injured four people before the suspect was shot and killed by police. The teen “is one of the fighters of the Islamic State and the fighter answered calls to target countries of the coalition that is fighting the Islamic State,” the group’s Amaq news agency said.
But German officials said they did not have any indications that the assailant had formal connections to the Islamic State, which has directed or inspired attacks in Europe, the United States, the Middle East and elsewhere. The Afghan teenager had a homemade Islamic State flag in his bedroom.
The Islamic State also claimed responsibility for the Thursday attack in Nice that killed 84 people and injured more than 300, but authorities there have not yet found evidence of direct communication between the group and the attacker.
Authorities sweeping the bedroom of the suspect found the flag and a text written in Pashto that indicated that he may have recently become self-radicalized, Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann said at a news conference in Munich. Authorities currently believe the man acted alone, he said.
Herrmann said acquaintances had not seen any outward indications of changes in behavior or views by the teen, suggesting that he may have “suddenly reoriented in a short period of time.” Acquaintances described a “calm” and “well-adjusted” man who attended a mosque on religious holidays, but showed no signs of extremism, Herrmann said.
According to eyewitness accounts, including one from a train passenger who phoned the police to report the attack, the young man exclaimed “Allahu Akbar” — Arabic for “God is great” — as he slashed at passengers with the ax and knife, Herrmann said. The phrase is common in Islamist-inspired terrorist attacks. But he said that additional investigation was needed to determine the motivation.
SOURCE: Stephanie Kirchner and Michael Birnbaum
The Washington Post