Germany: A 55-year-old Syrian national has been shot and taken into custody by German police after he threw a Molotov cocktail inside a McDonald’s restaurant and then took a woman hostage at Cologne train station, it was reported on Monday.
A woman was held hostage by the Syrian man for two hours at a pharmacy in Cologne’s central railway station. Police stormed the pharmacy and ended the situation around two hours later, shooting the perpetrator several times.
The Syrian suspect first threw a Molotov bomb inside a nearby McDonald’s franchise which injured a 14-year-old girl. An eyewitness was quoted by local media as saying that the young girl fled the restaurant with her legs on fire and was later taken to the hospital.
The assailant then fled to a pharmacy located in the Cologne railway station where he took a woman hostage. When special forces intervened, the man attempted to set light to the hostage.
The Syrian suspect said he was a member of “Daish,” an Arabic acronym for the Islamic State militant group. He had camping gas canisters with him that were stuck together with adhesive tape, as well as bottles of fire accelerant.
German authorities said the perpetrator sustained life-threatening injuries and emergency personnel had to revive him with CPR. The hostage received medical treatment for light injuries.
German authorities ordered an evacuation of the railway station, which is a main hub for rail traffic across Germany and western Europe. The Syrian ISIS suspect, who had left luggage behind at the restaurant, was said to have a history of criminal acts, including theft and drug offenses.
Police quoted by the Koelner Stadt-Anzeiger daily said a couple were involved, and the Syrian man had argued with a woman in a McDonald’s restaurant, before holding her in a pharmacy at the station.
According to the German investigators, there was contact with the hostage-taker before he was subdued. He is said to have demanded free withdrawal, a suitcase and a travel bag. He had previously left his suitcase and bag in the nearby McDonald’s where he had thrown a Molotov bomb. In addition, the man had demanded the release of a Tunisian woman. Further details about the woman whose release was demanded aren’t yet known.
The suspect was shot by German special forces when he was seen with a gun in his hand.
Before the shootout, there were also some reports of shots being fired in the early stages of the hostage situation but local authorities later denied that any shots were fired at the time.
UPDATE (17 October 2018):
The man who ignited a firebomb and took a hostage at the Cologne central rail station is a 55-year-old Syrian who was granted asylum in 2015, German police confirmed Tuesday. Police said he has been living in refugee housing since arriving in Germany in March 2015.
The 55-year-old man identified as Mohammad A.R. is seen by the German police as a “drunk with mental problems”, Handelsblatt reports. While eyewitnesses heard the man saying that he belonged to ISIS and wanted to join them in his native country, German police think Mohammad has psychological problems.
He has a history of street offences since he arrived as a refugee from Syria in 2015. Police recorded 13 reports about Mohammad, among other things for fraud, theft and threatening behaviour.
While prosecutors on Wednesday suggested there was a terrorist motive behind the attack, police now think otherwise.
“Based on what we know so far, there are sufficient indications to suggest a radical Islamist background to this act,” federal prosecutors had said.
Mohammad faces two counts of attempted murder and one charge of causing grievous bodily harm, the prosecutors said.
According to new details revealed by senior police official Klaus-Stephan Becker, the Syrian was transporting multiple explosives and accelerants in a suitcase which also contained gas cartridges and steel balls.
“The city apparently escaped an arson attack of immense destructive power,” Kronen Zeitung reports.
The Syrian man is one of the oldest perpetrators to have carried out an attack on European soil .
This story will be updated in case of new information.