BERLIN — A youth described as an Afghan refugee attacked passengers aboard a German commuter train with an ax late Monday, injuring at least five people before being killed by police, authorities said.
Bavarian Interior Ministry officials described the attacker as a 17-year-old Afghan citizen who had arrived in Germany as an unaccompanied refugee. The officials said it was not clear whether the incident was an act of terrorism.
“We currently can’t say anything about the background of the attack,” said police spokesman Björn Schmitt, adding that investigations were under way.
The assault occurred amid heightened fears in Germany about possible terrorist attacks, coming four days after 84 people were killed in an apparent jihadist-inspired attack in Nice, in the French Riviera.
Bavarian officials and local news accounts said the incident occurred after 9 p.m. local time on Monday on a commuter line that runs from Treuchtlingen to Würzburg in Bavaria. The youth hacked and slashed at some of the train’s 20 passengers, injuring at least five of them.
“It cannot be ruled out that the lives of some of those injured are in danger,” Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann told public television broadcaster ARD.
After the passengers called for help, the train stopped at the town of Heidingsfeld, near Würzburg, where police backed by helicopters were waiting.
The security officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity in discussing details of the still-unfolding events, said the assailant charged the officers while yelling “Allahu Akhbar.”
Some local officials cautioned that whether the teen used the phrase — common in Islamist-inspired terrorist attacks — had not been confirmed.
In a Bavarian broadcast interview, Hermann said that the assailant was living outside Würzburg and appears to have acted alone.
The attack comes 11 months after a similar episode in which an Islamist extremist shot and stabbed passengers on a French train heading from Amsterdam to Paris. Four people were injured, including the assailant, a 25-year-old Moroccan citizen, who was subdued by a group of passengers that included three Americans.
Photos from the aftermath of attack by ax-wielding teen on a train in Germany
Warrick reported from Washington. Souad Mekhennet in Ankara, Turkey, and Rick Noack in Nice, France, contributed to this report.