German police said Friday an axe-wielding attacker who wounded nine people in a bloody rampage at a railway station overnight was psychologically disturbed, ruling out a terrorist motive.
They were waiting to question the 36-year-old from Kosovo who is in hospital with multiple fractures after jumping off a bridge while trying to flee police at the crime scene, the main railway station in the western city of Duesseldorf.
News site Spiegel Online identified him as Fatmir H. and said he had told investigators that he had hoped to be shot dead by police following the random attack.
The suspect sparked panic when he got off a commuter train late Thursday and began swinging an axe at passers-by. Police said he was in an “exceptional mental state” at the time.
Police commandos with automatic weapons, wearing bullet-proof vests and balaclavas, rushed to the station backed by police helicopters amid fears it was a terrorist attack and initial false reports of multiple attackers.
With screams echoing around the station concourse and the wounded bleeding on the ground, police chased the man along railway tracks until he leapt off a four-metre (12-foot) bridge to evade arrest.
Speaking to AFP, a police spokesman said officials had ruled out an Islamist motive for the attack by the man who comes from Wuppertal, about 30 kilometres (20 miles) west of Duesseldorf.
Germany has been on edge after a string of attacks in recent months — several carried out by people with mental health problems — and a deadly truck attack on a Berlin Christmas market in December claimed by the Islamic State group.
– ‘Blood everywhere’ –
“We were on the platform waiting for the train. The train arrived and suddenly someone with an axe came out and started attacking people,” an unnamed witness told Bild daily.
“There was blood everywhere.”
Writing on Twitter, Angela Merkel’s chancellery chief-of-staff Peter Altmaier said: “Our compassion and our thoughts go out to the injured.”
And city mayor Thomas Geisel also reached out to victims.
“It’s a huge blow for Duesseldorf. Many people are in shock … My thoughts go out to the victims and their families,” he said.
German authorities have been on high alert, particularly since the Berlin truck attack which claimed 12 lives.
The security services say there are about 10,000 radical Islamists in the country, of whom 1,600 are suspected of having links to militant groups.
But there have also been several attacks where the assailants have turned out to be psychologically unstable.
Last July, a mentally disturbed 17-year-old migrant wielding an axe and a knife went on a rampage on a train in southern Germany, seriously injuring four people.
And last month, a 35-year-old German national, who was reportedly suffering from psychiatric problems, drove his car into a group of pedestrians in the southwestern city of Heidelberg, killing one and injuring two.