Friday

22nd Mar 2019

Germany reels after multiple killings

  • Support for Germany's Merkel remains high despite a fierce debate on immigration (Photo: bundeskanzlerin.de)

A spate of killings over the weekend has left Germany in shock as police attempt to piece together the motives behind the attacks.

On Sunday (24 July), a 27-year old Syrian migrant who had failed to obtain asylum killed himself and injured 12 others after detonating a bomb at a music festival in Ansbach, in southern Germany.

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  • Europol, the EU's joint police agency, said last weekend there is no hard evidence that Syrian refugees pose a terrorist threat (Photo: iom.int)

The man is said to have attempted suicide twice before. He had also been admitted to psychiatric care, reports Deutsche Welle.

In Reutlingen, a city in south-west Germany, a 21-year old Syrian refugee also on Sunday hacked to death a pregnant woman from Poland outside a fast food restaurant.

He injured two more people before bystanders and police stopped him. German media say he had fallen in love with the victim, but that she had rejected his advances.

Sunday’s attacks came after a shooting on Friday in a shopping centre in Munich, in southern Germany, by an 18-year German-Iranian who appears to have been inspired by Anders Breivik, a Norwegian far-right mass killer.

The shooting left nine people dead, most of whom were young people of Turkish and Kosovar-Albanian origin, and another 21 injured. The killer, who then committed suicide, had suffered from depression.

The weekend murders’ had been preceded by an axe and knife attack one week earlier on a commuter train near Wurzburg, in southern Germany, by a teenage Afghan refugee who appears to have been inspired by Islamic State (IS), the jihadist group based in Syria and Iraq.

Earlier still in April, three Muslim teenagers in Essen, north-west Germany, detonated explosives at a Sikh temple, killing three people.

The attacks in Germany come in the wider context of IS-linked terrorist attacks in France, Belgium and Turkey.

Gun controls

German authorities are now calling for tighter gun controls after it emerged the Munich mall gunman had bought a pistol and 300 rounds of ammunition on the internet.

The pistol had been deactivated to be used as a prop, but was later reactivated. Authorities have traced it back to Slovakia.

Slovakia is a known loophole in the EU's 2008 firearm law, where decommissioned weapons can be purchased with relative ease.

Some of the guns used in the terrorist attacks in France were also purchased in Slovakia and then reactivated in Belgium.

EU lawmakers have since vowed to make it more difficult to obtain such weapons following draft gun control reforms by the European Commission.

Merkel retains support

Whatever the broader motives, the attacks are likely to feed into the anti-refugee rhetoric espoused by the fringe Alternative for Germany (AfD) party or the Pegida anti-immigrant movement.

The AfD party, weakened by internal fighting, had already asked for chancellor Angela Merkel's resignation following the Friday mall shooting.

But popular support for Merkel was strong prior to the latest attacks. The chancellor, who had welcomed over 1 million asylum seekers to Germany last year, has seen approval ratings soar.

In July, a Deutschlandtrend poll said almost 60 percent of people surveyed support the chancellor. The figure is the highest since last September.

Germany has so far been spared the mass killings perpetrated by IS militants in France and in Belgium.

But German interior minister Thomas de Maiziere has also said that Germany is in the "target area of international terrorism."

Lone wolf

The broader fears is that jihadist militants will attempt to recruit vulnerable and isolated young Syrian refugees in Germany to then carry out so-called 'lone wolf' attacks.

German authorities in June had dismantled a suspected IS sleeper cell. A member of the group had turned himself following plans to launch an attack in Dusseldorf. Three Syrian men were later arrested.

They are also currently carrying out 708 investigations into suspected Islamist terrorism involving 1,029 suspects, reports the Financial Times.

IS attacks are not limited to Europe.

The vast majority of its victims are Muslims in Syria and Iraq. Another 80 people were killed by an IS bomb during a peaceful demonstration in Kabul this weekend.

Germany proposes new anti-terror laws

Germany is seeking to step up security with new proposals that include probing social media accounts of refugees and stripping foreign fighters of German citizenship.

Hollande: French people ‘under threat’

The “threat” of further attacks remained “high” in France and in Germany, French leader Francois Hollande has said after Islamic State claimed responsibility for murdering a Catholic priest.

Slovakia puts squeeze on free press ahead of election

Smer, Slovakia's ruling party, wants the country's media to give politicians a right-of-reply, or face stiff fines. Advocates of a free press are alarmed, and it poses a problem for the European Commission, whose vice-president is a Smer presidential candidate.

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