Syrian bomber at German music festival was set to be deported, police say
BERLIN — German authorities probed the background Monday of a Syrian bomber who was scheduled to be deported and set off an explosive-laden backpack outside a music festival, killing himself and wounding 12 others in the latest violence to rock Europe.
Police were still assessing possible motives behind the late Sunday bloodshed and whether the 27-year-old Syrian had any links to Islamist terror groups. But he had twice tried to commit suicide, officials said, suggesting a history of mental instability.
Interior Ministry spokesman Tobias Plate said the man was set to be deported to Bulgaria.
The incident marked the fourth bloody attack in seven days in Germany, with all but one — a mall shooting on Friday by an German teenager of Iranian descent — involving recently arrived asylum seekers.
In Sunday’s attack, the assailant detonated a backpack bomb near the entrance of the music festival in southern Germany after he was refused entry, officials said. About 2,500 people were rapidly evacuated from the festival in Ansbach, which also hosts a U.S. military base.
The device used was rigged with metal projectiles normally used in woodworking, according to Elke Schönwald, spokeswoman of the police in Nürnberg, which were handling the case.
The explosion went off near a wine bar toward the entrance of the music festival. Witnesses described a scene of chaos and fear that has become all too familiar in Germany and neighboring countries following a string of deadly attacks.
“We just went outside briefly because we wanted to have an ice cream and a drink and shortly after we heard a muffled bang,” Christian Hartdeck, an eyewitness, told reporters on the scene. “We were all petrified. A few people came running towards us who had been near the cafe. . . . A few people had been hit by tiles that had fallen off a roof” because of the blast.
In a nation grappling with massive backlog of hundreds of thousands of asylum applications, the attack prompted a chorus of voices critical of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s initial decision to welcome refugees and others during a huge surge into Europe last year.
Although the wave of migrants has sharply diminished this year due to a deal with Turkey to prevent them from entering Europe, more than 1 million asylum seekers arrived in Germany last year, many with minimal security checks.
Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann — a strong critic of Merkel’s welcome mat— told reporters at a news conference Monday that in his view the incident was “an Islamist suicide attack.”
“It’s horrible that someone who came into our country to find protection carries out such a gruesome deed,” he told reporters. “It’s probably just due to lucky circumstances in the end that more people haven’t died.”
Officials said the bomber had also been detained for drug possession and other minor offenses.
The incident came only two days after a troubled Iranian-German teenager went on a shooting rampage in a Munich shopping mall, leaving 10 people dead, including himself.
On Sunday, another Syrian asylum seeker was arrested in the town of Reutlingen, Baden-Wuerttemberg, after allegedly using a machete to kill a Polish woman who had apparently rejected his romantic advances.
On July 18, an asylum seeker from Afghanistan who had pledged allegiance to the Islamic Sate was shot dead after attacking and injuring five people on a train in Wuerzburg, also in southern Germany.
The Islamic State also claimed responsibility for the July 14 attack in Nice, France, when a 31-year-old Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel used a cargo truck to kill 84 people and wound dozens more.
This article was written by Anthony Faiola;Stephanie Kirchner from The Washington Post and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.