A Palestinian asylum-seeker who killed one person and injured six in a knife attack in Hamburg has reportedly told police it was an Islamist terror attack.
The 26-year-old, named only as Ahmad A under German privacy laws, told police he was wanted to be a “terrorist”, according to Süddeustche Zeitung newspaper.
But police are said to have their doubts over the confession, and believe he may be psychologically ill.
Fatal knife attack at Hamburg supermarket
No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, and there is no evidence that Ahmad A was in contact with jihadist groups in the Middle East.
Witnesses described Ahmad A shouting “Allahu akbar” as he ran into a supermarket and began stabbing people at random last Friday.
The attack appears to have been spontaneous rather than planned: Ahmad A grabbed the knife he used from the supermarket shelves.
He was investigated as a potential Islamic extremist threat last year but authorities concluded in January he was in fact suffering from psychological illness and recommended he be referred for psychiatric treatment, it has emerged. But he never received treatment.
Ahmad A’s case is highly unusual. Although his asylum application in Germany had little chance of success, he was reportedly cooperative and enthusiastic about returning home to his native Gaza.
He was well liked at the government department in charge of his case. Officials described him as friendly and said he made no attempt to hide his identity.
He told them he had connections with Fatah, the ruling Palestinian party in the West Bank. Although it has been heavily involved in violence against Israel, Fatah is not a jihadist party, and Ahmad A said he was concerned he could have problems with Hamas, the Islamist party which rules the Gaza Strip.
Authorities investigated him as a possible terror threat last year and concluded he was not a danger.
But new concerns were raised in recent week after Ahmad A suddenly became more overtly religious.
“One month ago, he began to change,” Yassar al-Adaoui Mustafa, a friend, told Bild newspaper. “He suddenly prayed loudly in the hallway and was very aggressive. He was shouting at people in English: ‘The West is killing Muslims all over the world’.”
Ahmad A is believed to have been radicalised while staying at a refugee shelter in Hamburg that has become notorious for violence.
Police have been called there because of riots, and cars belonging to local residents have been set on fire nearby.
The 26-year-old is believed to be a suicide risk and is being held in a cell furnished only with a mattress, where guards check on him every 10 minutes.