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Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof attack: suspect identified

Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof attack: suspect identified

Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof attack: suspect identified

As the investigation into the killing of an eight-year-old boy at Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof on Monday continues, new details about the incident and the alleged perpetrator are coming to light. Here's everything that has been confirmed so far.

Suspect identified as Habte A. 

The primary suspect in the Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof attack was identified at a press conference this afternoon as Habte A., a 40-year-old Eritrean national who has been residing in Switzerland since 2006. He is married and has three children. Zurich police confirmed on Twitter that the suspect was in possession of a so-called settlement permit, which is issued to foreign nationals after a stay of five years in the country. Settlement permit holders have unlimited residency rights and can travel freely within the Schengen area.

He worked for Zurich's transport association, Verkehrsbetriebe Zürich (VBZ) and was considered by authorities to be a prime example of "successful integration" until a few weeks ago, when he reportedly began to display some alarming behaviours. He apparently threatened his neighbour with a knife and made death threats, and has been wanted by the police in Switzerland ever since, said Holger Münch, President of the Federal Criminal Police Office. 

Eluding the Swiss police, the man apparently took a train from Basel to Frankfurt a few days ago. It is not clear why he would come to Germany to commit an attack. The Frankfurt prosecutors' office said there was no indication that he knew any of his victims, nor that he was under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of the crime, but that a possible mental disorder is currently being investigated. He stands accused of one count of homicide and two counts of attempted homicide and will face the magistrate on Tuesday.

Frankfurt prosecutors open murder investigation

At a press conference on Tuesday afternoon, a spokesperson for the Frankfurt prosecutor, Nadja Niesen, confirmed that they had opened a murder investigation following the tragic incident on Monday morning. Niesen said that A. had first knocked the mother, then her son, onto the tracks. The boy was struck by the train and died at the scene. The mother was able to roll onto a narrow footpath on the other side of the tracks and was taken to hospital to be treated for shock. Neither of the victims has been identified, although they are said to reside in the Hochtaunuskreis district of Frankfurt.

After pushing the mother and her son, A. then tried to push another woman onto the tracks. The 78-year-old was, however, able to defend herself against the attack, although she sustained shoulder injuries in the process. After she fended him off, the suspect fled the scene, leaving the main station via the southern exit. Several onlookers pursued him, including an off-duty police officer who was travelling privately at the train station. The pursuers managed to detain A. until the police arrived.

Incident prompts debate over security at German stations

Federal Interior Minister Horst Seehofer (CSU) cut his holiday short to consult with the heads of several major security agencies in Berlin. While he warned about drawing premature conclusions about the attack, he’s said to be concerned about several “serious incidents” in recent weeks, including attacks and threats against representatives of Die Linke political party, bomb threats against mosques and the racially-motivated attack against an Eritrean in Wächtersbach in Hesse several weeks ago. There is no suggestion, however, that this incident is linked to these. 

The scene at Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof on Tuesday was one of horror, as numerous people laid flowers, candles and teddy bears on Platform 7, the scene of the incident. There will be a public memorial service at the station at 4:30 pm this afternoon. 

The attack has prompted a debate over whether security needed to be improved at German stations, with some calling for ticket barriers and a heavier police presence. According to the chairman of the Conference of Transport Ministers, Anke Rehlinger, however, acts like those in Frankfurt cannot be prevented by security measures: “Such an act does not reveal a flaw in security but in humanity.” The Deputy Chairman of the Union of Police, Jörg Radek, said that Germany’s 5.600 different stations make finding a one-size-fits-all solution tricky. 

Abi

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Abi Carter

Abi studied History & German at the University of Manchester. She has since worked as a writer, editor and content marketeer, but still has a soft spot for museums, castles...

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