The quite city of Würzburg was thrown into mourning on Friday a Somali man indiscriminately attacked pedestrians and shoppers in the city centre with a knife on the afternoon of the fateful day.
Before the 24-year-old assailant was finally stopped by the police, he had killed three women and injured seven others, some of them seriously. The officers had finally stopped the man with a shot in the thigh. He is now in custody.
Nobody could explain the bloody crime which threw the Bavarian city, made globally famous by Europe’s biggest festival of African music and culture which it hosts yearly, into shock and confusion and, of course, anger.
According to an African activist in the town, who prefers to speak anonymously, the Somali man appeared to have been been mentally disturbed in recent times. “He walks around aimlessly and does not respond when you speak to him,” he reported. “In fact, we once went to the homeless home where he lived to see if we could help him, but he refused to talk with us and we informed the authorities,” the African activists explained.
What drove the 24-year-old Somali to commit the murders, however, remained largely unclear over the weekend. Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann told journalists in Würzburg on Saturday that investigators considered the man to be a lone perpetrator. It is not yet known what significance the man’s mental state had and whether there was an extreme Islamist motive.
Eyewitnesses said they heard the Somali man shouting an Islamic refrain “Allahu Akbar” (“God is greatest”) while attacking his victims.
The man had already attracted attention in the recent past for an attack on fellow residents of the homeless where he stayed and had been temporarily admitted to a psychiatric institution, said Bamberg prosecutor general Wolfgang Gründler.
The Somali has been living in Germany since 2015 and he enjoys subsidiary protection under the asylum law and is thus in the country legally.
The mayor of Würzburg, Christian Schuchardt, in an open letter to the city’s residents warned against sweeping judgements in view of the perpetrator’s origin and religion, cautioning against stirring hostility towards “Somalis or refugees in general”.
Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier described the incident as an “appalling act of violence”. Speaking in Berlin on Saturday, he said the perpetrator had acted extremely brutally and for which he would be held accountable by the rule of law. “My thoughts are with those who have lost their loved ones,” he said.
German government spokesman Steffen Seibert wrote on Twitter that the investigation would reveal what drove the perpetrator. “One thing is certain: his horrific act is directed against all humanity and all religion,” he added.