BERLIN — The suspect in an ax attack at a German train station that wounded nine people Thursday was a mentally disturbed asylum seeker from Kosovo, officials said Friday. They said there was no indication of any political or religious motive for the attack.
German police swarmed the main train station in Düsseldorf around 9 p.m. Thursday after a man on a commuter train began striking exiting passengers with an ax, officials said.
The suspect in the attack was identified in the German news outlet Spiegel Online as 36-year-old Fatmir H. On Friday, police found a doctor’s diagnosis inside the suspect’s apartment, some 20 miles away in the city of Wuppertal, as well as medication indicating that he was paranoid schizophrenic, according to Dietmar Kneib of the North Rhine-Westphalia state criminal police.
The suspect was being treated at a hospital for severe injuries suffered after he jumped off a bridge to try to escape police. Of the nine victims, four suffered serious injuries, though none were in critical condition, officials said.
“Apparently it was a psychological disorder of the perpetrator that led to the deed,” Kneib said.
There were no indications of terrorism-related motives, Kneib said. But the bloody rampage nevertheless marked the latest act of violence by an asylum seeker to rock Germany. The nation has suffered a series of attacks in recent months, including an assault on a Christmas market in December that left 12 dead. Islamist militants who entered Germany masquerading as migrants have committed some of the attacks, but Thursday’s incident also punctuated concerns over violence not related to terrorism.
The suspect was not part of the wave of more than 1 million migrants who have arrived in Germany over the past two years, officials said. He arrived in 2009 and was granted a residence permit on humanitarian grounds.
The attack occurred as a commuter train pulled into Düsseldorf central station shortly before 9 p.m. local time. The attacker suddenly started to hit passengers with an ax from behind, officials said. One of the passengers managed to push the attacker off the train, and the conductor closed the door, preventing potential further injuries, officials said.
According to police, the attacker tried to get back into the train by beating and kicking the door. When he was unsuccessful, he began walking up and down the platform and downstairs into the main hall. When police officers approached, the man fled across the tracks. The chase ended with the attacker jumping off a nearby bridge.
The suspect’s brother, who knew about his mental issues and that he had recently bought an ax, had reported him missing the day of the attack, authorities said. Police said Friday that they have not been able to question the suspect because of his injuries.
Among the victims was a 13-year-old girl who suffered severe arm injuries and two Italian tourists. Besides the girl, the other victims are between 30 and 50 years of age, officials said.
More than 500 officers were involved in the police operation, including special forces.
An amateur video apparently shot from the scene showed a shellshocked eyewitness walking around bloodstained floors as police tend to a wounded person on the ground.
“The guy just started striking at people with an ax,” the unidentified man in the video says. “I’ve never seen anything like that in my life. Directly next to me he started hitting people with an ax.”
Noack reported from London. Stephanie Kircher in Berlin contributed to this report.