BERLIN — A man armed with a long knife killed three people and injured several others, some seriously, in the southern city of Wuerzburg Friday before being shot by police and arrested, German authorities said.
Germany’s Bild newspaper said an additional six people were wounded in the attack in a central part of the Bavarian city. Police identified the suspect as a 24-year-old Somali man living in Wuerzburg. His life was not in danger from his gunshot wound, they said.
Videos posted on social media showed pedestrians surrounding the attacker and holding him at bay with chairs and sticks.
A woman who said she had witnessed the incident told German RTL television that the police then stepped in.
“He had a really big knife with him and was attacking people,” Julia Runze said. “And then many people tried to throw chairs or umbrellas or cellphones at him and stop him.”
“The police then approached him and I think a shot was fired, you could hear that clearly.”
#BREAKING another footage
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Police spokeswoman Kerstin Kunick said officers were alerted around 5 pm to a knife attack on Barbarossa Square in the center of the city.
Bavaria’s governor Markus Soeder expressed shock at the news of the attack. “We grieve with the victims and their families,” he wrote on Twitter.
Wuerzburg is a city of about 130,000 people in Bavaria, located between Munich and Frankfurt.
While no immediate motive was given, Germany has been on high alert after several deadly Islamist extremist attacks.
Suspected Islamists have committed several attacks in Germany in recent years, the deadliest being a truck rampage at a Berlin Christmas market in December 2016 that killed 12 people.
The Tunisian attacker, a failed asylum seeker, was a supporter of the Islamic State jihadist group.
More recently, one man was killed and another seriously injured in an Islamist knife attack in the city of Dresden in October.
A 20-year-old Syrian jihadist in May received a life sentence for the homophobic attack.
In August, six people were injured in a series of motorway accidents in Berlin in what prosecutors described as a suspected Islamist attack.
The number of Islamists considered dangerous in Germany rose sharply between 2015 and 2018, according to security services.
But numbers have declined since then, with just 615 considered dangerous by the latest count — compared with 730 in January 2018.
On top of that, there are also 521 people “who have attracted the attention of the security services but have not yet reached the stage of being considered dangerous”.
Chancellor Angela Merkel has allowed in more than one million asylum seekers since 2015 — a decision that has driven the rise of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, which charges that the influx spells a heightened security risk.
But beyond Islamist attacks, there have been other assaults by knife-wielding people.
In October 2017, a knife-wielding man randomly attacked passersby in central Munich, lightly injuring eight people. Police excluded terrorism as a motive after detaining the suspected perpetrator.