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Islamic State claims Germany train attacker was one of its members

German police say they found a hand-painted Islamic State flag in the Afghan refugee's room, but authorities have not found any evidence indicating he was a member of an Islamist network.
Photo by Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters

Police found a hand-painted Islamic State flag in the room of a young Afghan refugee who attacked passengers on a train in southern Germany with an axe. Islamic State has reportedly claimed that the teen was one of its members, but German authorities say they do not have any evidence indicating whether or not the boy was a member of an Islamist network.

Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann said they found the flag among his belongings when police searched his home, as well as a text that included references to Islam and the "need to resist," according to an initial translation from the Afghan language of Pashto.


The 17-year-old started attacking the passengers with an axe and a knife around 9:00pm local time on Monday as the train was approaching its last stop, the Bavarian city of Wuerzburg. He severely wounded four Hong Kong residents, one of whom remains in a critical condition, while on the train and then injured a local woman while attempting to flee the scene before police shot him dead.

Herrmann told Reuters that the Pashto text was subject to interpretation, and stressed that the attack was no reason to cast suspicion on other refugees or for Germans to stop living their lives normally. He said people who knew the teen, who came to Germany as an unaccompanied minor two years ago, described him as a devout Muslim, but not "radical or fanatic." The official stressed that authorities have not found any evidence that he was a member of any particular group.

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"Some things clearly point to an Islamist background, but there is no evidence at this point connecting him to any other individuals, or indicating whether he radicalized himself," Herrmann said. "That must all still be investigated."

The Islamic State-affiliated Amaq news agency made the claim that the young refugee was a member of the militant group entrenched in parts of Iraq and Syria.

"We are aware of the claim of responsibility by Islamic State, but… the investigation has not produced any evidence thus far that would indicate this young man was part of an Islamist network," Herrmann told a news conference.

At least one witness reported that the attacker, who had been living with a foster family in the nearby town of Ochsenfurt, had shouted "Allahu Akbar" (God is greatest).

The attack took place just days after a Tunisian delivery driver with a French residence and work permit plowed a truck into crowds of Bastille Day revelers in the southern French city of Nice, killing 84. Islamic State has also claimed responsibility for that attack.

The Bavarian attack is likely to deepen worries about so-called "lone wolf" attacks in Europe and could put political pressure on German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has welcomed hundreds of thousands of migrants to Germany over the past year. About 1 million migrants were let into Germany in 2015, including thousands of unaccompanied minors. Many were fleeing war in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

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