Friday, July 1, 2022

Police shoot knife-wielding man at Berlin Cathedral, ‘terror’ ruled out


BERLIN: Police shot and wounded a knife-wielding man inside Berlin’s main cathedral on Sunday but said there was no indication the assailant had a “terrorist” motive.

Officers cordoned off the entrances to the landmark in the heart of the German capital after the incident, in which one policeman was also hurt by what was believed to be a police bullet.

About 100 people were visiting the cathedral at the time of the incident and had been evacuated by staff by the time two police officers arrived at the scene.

“Shortly after 4 pm (1400 GMT) police shot at a rampaging man at Berlin Cathedral,” police said in a tweet.

“He was wounded in the leg.”

Both the assailant and the officer were being treated in hospital.

A spokesman later added that the man was a 53-year-old Austrian who had been brandishing a knife and was “verbally aggressive”. When the two officers arrived at the scene, the man was at the altar.

Witnesses told local media that the man appeared “very confused”.

The iron-domed Protestant cathedral, one of the city’s top tourist attractions, is on Museum Island off East Berlin’s main Unter den Linden Boulevard and close to the Alexanderplatz shopping district.

“Based on what we know so far, we have no information that the suspect in any way had a terrorist or [extremist] motive,” a police spokesman said.

An AFP reporter said the entrances to the building were blocked off with red-and-white police tape and several officers with automatic weapons were patrolling the scene.

DPA news agency said some witnesses were taken away to receive psychological counseling.

The shooting comes with authorities in a state of high alert for attacks after several assaults claimed by Daesh in the country.

Worst attack in Berlin

Like other European nations, Germany remains a target for militant groups, in particular, because of its involvement in the coalition fighting Daesh in Iraq and Syria, and its deployment in Afghanistan since 2001.

In the worst attack in the country to date, Tunisian asylum seeker Anis Amri rammed a truck into crowds at a Berlin Christmas market in December 2016, killing 12.

The assault occurred in the shadow of the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, a war-damaged landmark in the west of the capital.

A court in March sentenced a 26-year-old Palestinian asylum seeker to life in prison for killing one and wounding six others with a knife in a Hamburg supermarket last July.

In April, Berlin police briefly detained six men amid fears of an attack on the city’s half marathon, which drew 36,000 runners.

But they were released when searches of their homes and vehicles netted no weapons, explosives or other evidence.

The same weekend, a German driver in the western city of Muenster plowed a van into an open-air restaurant, killing two people.

The driver later shot himself and investigators cited mental health problems, not a political motive, as being behind the attack.

Germany’s security services estimate there are around 10,000 radicals in Germany, some 1,600 of whom are suspected of being potentially violent.

Political opponents of Chancellor Angela Merkel, including the far-right AfD party, have charged that the security situation has worsened with the arrival of more than one million migrants and refugees since 2015, many from African and Middle Eastern conflict hotspots.


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