Germany: Federal prosecutor takes over probe into gym attack

Germany’s federal prosecutor has taken over the investigation into last week’s attack on a gym in the western city of Duisburg, news agencies reported Friday.

DPA news agency cited the special significance of the case as the reason for the move, citing a spokeswoman for the prosecutor’s office, which is based in the western city of Karlsruhe.

Investigators in North Rhine-Westphalia, the state where the stabbing attack took place, had initially said that knifings appeared to have been a targeted attack on one of the victims, but more recently, they spoke of a possible Islamist motivation for the crime.

The 26-year-old Syrian national, whom authorities are identifying only as M.D. in line with German privacy rules, was arrested at his apartment in Duisburg on Sunday in connection with the gym stabbing on April 18, which injured four people.

He is being held in custody on suspicion of attempted murder and other offences.

Suspect linked to second knifing

In a further development, prosecutors said Thursday he was also a suspect in a fatal stabbing earlier this month.

A 35-year-old man was seriously injured in a knife attack in the early hours of Easter Sunday, also in Duisburg.

The victim, who suffered multiple stab wounds, died a few hours later.

In a statement, prosecutors said DNA from the scene and the suspect’s shoes linked him to that attack.

North Rhine-Westphalia state’s top security official, Herbert Reul, told a committee of the state legislature on Thursday that the suspect hadn’t talked in custody about a possible motive.

Earlier statements by the police and public prosecutor’s office suggest M.D. had applied for asylum in Germany in April 2016.

He had previously been arrested over two minor property offences but both cases were dropped.

Islamist terror still a threat

Islamist extremists have committed several terror attacks in Germany in recent years, the deadliest being a truck rampage at a Berlin Christmas market in December 2016 that killed 12 people.

In another case, an extremist and his wife were jailed in 2020 for planning a biological bomb attack with the deadly poison ricin.

On Tuesday, police in the northern city of Hamburg said they had detained a Syrian national in relation to a suspected jihadi plan to use a homemade bomb against civilian targets.

Around 250 officers were involved in the operation, seizing evidence including chemical substances.

Investigations were focused on a 28-year-old and his 24-year-old brother, who the authorities said were motivated by “radical-Islamist and jihadist convictions.”

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