Suicide bomb hits Ansbach, Germany in latest violent attack
ANSBACH, Germany (CNN) — A Syrian asylum seeker exploded a suicide bomb outside a music festival in southern Germany Sunday night, in the latest violent attack to rattle the country in the past week.
Twelve people were injured by the blast in the city of Ansbach, three of them seriously, Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann said at a news conference Monday. The bomber, a 27-year-old Syrian national who was known to police, was killed, Hermann said.
The attack took place at the final concert of the Ansbach Open festival, where an audience of about 2,500 was in attendance, police in Middle Franconia, the region where the attack took place, said in a statement.
At about 9:45 p.m. local time Sunday, security staff at the concert noticed a suspicious person wearing a backpack pacing up and down around the entrance to the event, the statement said.
The man had been denied entry into the concert as he did not have a ticket, according to Hermann.
The police statement said that the bomber “lingered around in the outdoor seating area of a nearby wine restaurant.”
“An explosion took place at around 10:10 pm in that area after the young man briefly leaned forward, according to eye witness accounts,” it said.
The music festival and surrounding area were then evacuated.
Herrmann said the attacker’s backpack contained screws and nails, in an apparent bid to inflict widespread damage.
Attacker had sought asylum
Authorities said the bomber, who has not been named, entered Germany two years ago.
He had applied for asylum in the country, but his application was rejected. However, he remained in the country, as it is German policy to not allow rejected applicants to return to war zones.
The bomber was known to police in Ansbach for previous offenses, including drug crimes, Herrmann said. He had also twice attempted suicide before the bombing.
“Because how this backpack and the bomb were packed, especially with so many metal splinters, which could have killed and injured many more people, this act cannot be purely assessed as a suicide,” Herrmann said.
The attack has not been confirmed as terrorism, Hermann said, but there are strong indications it may be. Police say it is unclear whether the attacker was an Islamist.
Bavarian state police are searching the home of the attacker, which is in a hotel currently being used as a refugee shelter, according to spokesman Michael Petzold.
Ansbach, with a population of about 40,000, is a major U.S. military garrison town, with around 5,000 members of the military living there along with civilians, contractors and retirees. There are three military installations in the Ansbach area, according to the garrison’s website.
‘Terrible week’ in Bavaria
The Ansbach bombing is the third attack in the southern German state of Bavaria in recent days, a spate of violence that has rattled the country and fueled criticism of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s immigration policies.
A week ago, a 17-year-old who had arrived in Germany as an unaccompanied minor from Pakistan or Afghanistan carried out a stabbing attack on a train in Wurzburg, about 70 kilometers (45 miles) from Ansbach.
The attack, which authorities said appeared motivated by ISIS propaganda, has left four patients still in hospital, one of them in an induced coma, medical officials say.
On Friday, an 18-year-old with dual German and Iranian nationality went on a shooting spree in a busy shopping district in the Bavarian capital, Munich, killing nine people before killing himself.
Police said the gunman was a mentally troubled individual who was obsessed with mass shootings and may have planned the attack for a year, and have not found a link to terror groups.
And on Sunday, hours before the Ansbach attack, a 21-year-old Syrian asylum seeker killed a woman with a machete in Reutlingen, in the neighboring southern German state of Baden-Wurttemberg.
The attacker had come to Germany a year ago, according to a police statement, and was known to police for property thefts and assault. The woman was 45 years old and from Poland, police said.
Police: Associate of Munich gunman arrested
Police said Monday they had arrested a 16-year-old Afghan national who knew the Munich gunman and had met with him shortly before the rampage, officials say.
Chief prosecutor Thomas Steinkraus-Koch said that, in his interview with police on Friday, the teen had deleted a Whatsapp chat log of his conversations with the attacker.
But police have since been able to recover it, and it showed that the teen knew the attacker had a pistol. The two teens had met each other while receiving inpatient psychiatric care last summer, and the Afghan teen knew from these interactions that the attacker had expressed hatred for people and was obsessed with Anders Behring Breivik, who killed 77 people in Norway in 2011.
The Munich attack was carried out five years to the days since Breivik’s deadly rampage.
Speaking at a press conference Monday, Bavarian Interior Minister Hermann acknowledged it had been a “very terrible week” in the state.
“Yes, this was also for me personally a very terrible week, as I think it was for most of the people in Bavaria. The attack last Monday on the train in Wurzburg, then the rampage… in Munich Friday night, and now again an attack.
“It has been almost nine years now that I am interior minister. And I have not had, thank goodness, to experience something like this during these nine years until now. And I do hope that I will not experience something like that so soon and fast.”