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Hamburg knife attack suspect known as Islamist but had no terror links

Posted July 29

A man accused of a fatal stabbing in Hamburg was known to investigators as an Islamist and was "psychologically unstable," but so far does not appear to have any terror links, German authorities told a news conference Saturday.

The 26-year-old man grabbed a long kitchen knife at a supermarket Friday afternoon and stabbed three shoppers, killing one, before attacking four others on the street.

Eyewitnesses said he shouted ''Allahu Akhbar'' (God is great). Amateur video showed a group of young men throwing chairs at the suspect to subdue him.

One of the injured was a Turkish man who helped others overpower the attacker, authorities said. Some of the injured were hurt seriously.

''We are shaken, horrified,'' Hamburg Interior Minister Andy Grote told the news conference in Hamburg. He called it a ''barbaric'' attack and praised the citizens who overpowered the man as ''very courageous.'' Amateur video showed a group of young men throwing chairs at the suspect to subdue him.

Hamburg's mayor will lay flowers at the site of the attack in the city's Barmbek area, he said.

The suspect is to appear in court Saturday on one count of murder and five counts of attempted murder, said Joerg Froehlich, Hamburg chief prosecutor.

He won't talk because of a head injury sustained during the incident, Froelich said, adding that the case will go to the federal prosecutor. The suspect, whom the authorities did not identify by name, had previously been arrested for shoplifting.

Authorities are still trying to determine the man's nationality, but said he had a birth certificate from the United Arab Emirates and was seeking papers from the Palestinian Authority mission in Berlin.

Grote said the man intended to leave Germany and had been at a government registration office for foreigners earlier on Friday to see if his papers had arrived.

Grote said the attacker appeared to have Islamist motives but was also ''psychologically unstable.'' He was known to be radicalizing and was being monitored by authorities, but was not considered a "jihadist," or Islamist militant. Authorities searched his living quarters at an asylum shelter in Hamburg overnight.

Torsten Voss, Hamburg state's chief of the Constitutional Protection Office, said the suspect was one of 800 registered Islamists under observation in Hamburg, but that he was so far not linked to any extremist network.

Voss said the attacker, according to an informant, was known in the past to enjoy drinking and partying, but had changed recently and increasingly spoke about the Koran. Voss noted that the suspect speaks Norwegian, Swedish and English.

The attack was the latest in a series linked to Islamists in Germany, including a truck attack on a Christmas market in Berlin in December that killed 12 people.

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