Palestinian in dock over Hamburg ‘Islamist’ knife attack

Ahmad Alhaw charged with murder for July terror attack in which he took knife from supermarket shelf, killed one and wounded six

Ahmad Alhaw, a 26-year-old Palestinian man, waits in a courtroom on January 12, 2018 in Hamburg. (AFP PHOTO / POOL / Christian Charisius)
Ahmad Alhaw, a 26-year-old Palestinian man, waits in a courtroom on January 12, 2018 in Hamburg. (AFP PHOTO / POOL / Christian Charisius)

HAMBURG, Germany — A 26-year-old Palestinian man goes on trial in a German court on Friday over his deadly knife rampage outside a Hamburg supermarket that prosecutors believe was an Islamist attack.

Ahmad Alhaw took a 20-centimeter (eight-inch) knife from the shelves of a supermarket last July, using it to kill one and wound six in the assault. He was arrested after passersby overpowered him.

Charging him with murder, as well as six counts of attempted murder and grievous bodily harm, prosecutors said he acted with a likely Islamist motive.

“The results of the investigation show that the accused sought out his victims indiscriminately, retaliating against people, who in his view represent perpetrators of injustice targeting Muslims,” said prosecutors.

“It was important to him to kill as many German nationals of the Christian faith as possible. He wanted his actions to be viewed in the context of an Islamist attack, and understood as a contribution to jihad worldwide,” they added.

Makeshift memorial of flowers and candles for the victims of a knife attack in front of a supermarket in Hamburg, Germany, July 30, 2017. (AFP/DPA/Bodo Marks)

Investigators, however, did not find any evidence to suggest that Alhaw was a member of the Islamic State (IS) group.

He risks life in prison, although Germany often grants parole after 15 years.

The trial came after the accused was deemed psychologically fit for trial.

National news agency DPA said the accused had allegedly signed a statement during interrogation saying: “Yes, I am a terrorist.”

Friday’s hearing opens with the indictment before turning to interrogators’ statements. The trial is expected to last until March 2, with the six people wounded in the assault invited to the hearings only from January 26.

The assault in the northern port city was the first Islamist attack in Germany since Tunisian Anis Amri drove a truck into crowds at a Berlin Christmas market in December 2016, killing 12 and injuring 48.

Amri was shot dead by police in Milan four days later, and the rampage was claimed by the Islamic State group.

Germany has been on high alert over the threat of a jihadist assault since that truck rampage.

Like Amri, Alhaw was to have been deported after his asylum application was rejected by authorities at the end of 2016, but the process was held up by a lack of identity documents.

The attacks have piled pressure on Chancellor Angela Merkel over her decision to allow in more than a million asylum seekers since 2015.

Railing against the migrants, the Islamophobic party AfD snatched over 90 seats in last September’s general elections — the best showing for a far-right party in Germany since the end of World War II.

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