2016 Würzburg train attack

Würzburg train attack
Part of Terrorism in Germany (Wave of Terror in Europe, European migrant crisis and Spillover of the Syrian Civil War

Regionalbahn between Winterhausen and Würzburg-Heidingsfeld
Location Würzburg, Bavaria, Germany
Coordinates 49°45′22″N 9°58′14″E / 49.75611°N 9.97061°E / 49.75611; 9.97061Coordinates: 49°45′22″N 9°58′14″E / 49.75611°N 9.97061°E / 49.75611; 9.97061
Date 18 July 2016 (2016-07-18)
21:00 CEST (UTC+2)
Attack type
Mass stabbing, hacking, terrorism
Weapons Hatchet, knife
Deaths 1 (the perpetrator)
Non-fatal injuries
Assailants Riaz Khan Ahmadzai aka Muhammad Riyad

On 18 July 2016, an asylum seeker from South Asia who claimed to be 17 injured four people seriously, two critically, with a knife and hatchet on a train near Würzburg in Germany.[1] A fifth person was injured outside.[2][3][4] The state office of criminal investigations called it a terrorist attack with an Islamist religious motive.[5] The attacker's Islamic State instructor "ordered" him "to use an axe rather than a knife in his attack."[6][7] In a martyrdom video, the attacker blamed unspecified infidels trespassing against and murdering men, women and children, as well as leaders and Muslim citizens who did not object to this.[8]

The attack happened around 21:00 CEST on a train traveling between Treuchtlingen and Würzburg.[9] The victims in the train (a husband, wife, their daughter and her boyfriend) are from Hong Kong,[10][11] and the fifth victim, attacked outside the train, is a local woman.[2][3][4] Fourteen witnesses were treated for shock.[9][12] The attacker tried to flee and was shot dead by Special Deployment Commandos after they confronted him and he tried to attack them with the hatchet.[13][14]

German authorities later discovered evidence showing that Ahmadzai was in contact with a suspected Islamic State member in Saudi Arabia and had originally been asked to drive a car into a crowd of people. Ahmadzai declined this suggestion as he was not able to drive the car.[15] Instead, he told his contact that he would plan and carry out a train attack.[16]


Late on 18 July 2016, a youth with a hatchet and a knife injured four Hong Kongers on a train in Würzburg, Germany. A fifth person, a woman who was walking her dog, was "hit with the axe twice in the face"[17] and seriously injured.[3][4] The perpetrator was located by the police about 500 m (1,600 ft) from the train.[3] As they approached him, he tried to attack and was shot dead.[3][18] He reportedly yelled "Allahu Akbar!" during the attack, according to Oliver Platzer, a spokesman for the Bavarian Interior Ministry.[19] Public prosecutor Erik Ohlenschlagern said police heard the attacker call out "Allahu Akbar!" in a recorded emergency call from a witness' mobile phone.[20]

On 20 July, it was announced the Attorney General Peter Frank has taken over the investigation, because it is believed "the assassin committed the offence as a member of the so-called Islamic State."[21]


Riaz Khan Ahmadzai (Pashto: رياض خان احمدزی), also known as Muhammad Riyad,[22] was initially reported to be a 17-year-old Afghan male who arrived in Germany as an unaccompanied child refugee in 2015. Later media reports suggested he may have been Pakistani and older than 17 years Born in 6 April of 1999 in Afghanistan. [23][24][25] Sources close to the German security services believed he may have pretended to be Afghan on arrival in Germany in 2015 in order to have a better chance at securing asylum.[26] He first lived in a refugee camp in Ochsenfurt, then for two weeks with a foster family in Gaukönigshofen 5.6 kilometres (3.5 mi) southwest of Ochsenfurt,[27] both in the district Würzburg.[28][29]

Die Welt reported that "he was a devout Muslim," but was not perceived as fanatical.[30] Amaq News Agency published a two-and-a-half minute video, allegedly of him speaking in Pashto, proclaiming himself a soldier of the Caliphate, threatening further ISIL attacks in "every village, city and airport" and holding a knife.[31][32] German officials were checking if the man in the video was in fact the attacker. The Chief of the German Chancellery, Peter Altmaier, told ZDF television, "The security authorities expect that this video is in all likelihood authentic".[33]

Police found a hand-painted ISIL flag at his foster family's home, along with a letter he appeared to have written to his father, which they said read: "And now pray for me that I can get revenge on these non-believers, pray for me that I go to heaven."[33]


Authorities temporarily closed the train line between Ochsenfurt and Würzburg-Heidingsfeld.[34][35]

Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann said, "There are witnesses that suggest there may be an Islamic background to this but that is far from clear at this point." Both he and Landeskriminalamt spokesman Fabian Hench declined to confirm the attacker said "Allahu Akbar".[36][37] Herrmann said it did not appear the victims were targeted for being Chinese.[31] On 21 July, Joachim Herrmann demanded stricter control of the German borders. People without valid papers had to be adhered and checked at the border. "We can't let it slide this way anymore", Herrmann said. Hermann also criticised slow asylum proceedings. No fingerprints were taken of the perpetrator and no hearing of him took place.[38]

German Chancellor Angela Merkel condemned the attack as an "incredibly cruel act" and promised that everything would be done by the authorities to prevent further attacks.[38]

Rolf Tophoven, terrorism expert and director of the Crisis Prevention Institute in Essen told Le Monde that the perpetrator was "integrated" and wasn't known to police or intelligence agencies. He said he appears to have radicalised overnight, perhaps through frustration, hopelessness and online ISIL propaganda, and that the case appeared similar to that of Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel, who committed the 2016 Nice attack, or Omar Mateen of the 2016 Orlando nightclub shooting, because of their lack of direct connection to ISIL.[39]

Amaq News Agency, an online presence associated with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, citing an "inside source", said the attacker was "a soldier of the Islamic State who executed the operation in response to calls to target nations in the coalition fighting the Islamic State".[40][41]

Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying has condemned the attack as he dispatched a team of immigration officers to accompany the victims’ relatives to Germany. The Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in Berlin dispatched staff to visit the injured. Leung said he was saddened by the incident and expressed his sympathy.[42][43][44][45]

The attack was linked to the European migrant crisis, and was reported to have raised more questions about Angela Merkel's open-door refugee policy.[46] The attack was compared to a knife attack at Hanover main station earlier that year on 26 February.[47]

Former federal minister Renate Künast of the Green Party was ridiculed by police union chief Rainer Wendt as a "parliamentary smart aleck" for asking why the perpetrator was shot dead instead of arrested alive.[48]

See also


  1. Narayan, Chandrika; Cook, Lonzo; Berlinger, Joshua (19 July 2016). "Police: ISIS-like flag found in train attacker's apartment". CNN. Retrieved 19 July 2016.
  2. 1 2 "Angriffe mit Vernichtungswillen". Der Spiegel. 19 July 2016. Retrieved 19 July 2016.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 "Was wir über den Angriff bei Würzburg wissen – und was nicht". Süddeutsche Zeitung. 19 July 2016. Retrieved 19 July 2016.
  4. 1 2 3 "ISIS claims responsibility for ax attack on German train". New York Times. 19 July 2016. Retrieved 19 July 2016.
  5. "Germany's first attack by radicalised asylum seeker alarms officials". The Guardian. 19 July 2016. Retrieved 28 July 2016.
  6. JULIAN ROBINSON (15 September 2016). "'Use an axe, not a knife. Now you will get into Heaven': Terrifying texts revealed between ISIS agent and fanatics as they carried out recent attacks in Germany". The Daily Mail. Retrieved 2 October 2016. Riaz Khan Ahmadzai, 17, was ordered by ISIS to use an axe rather than a knife in his attack
  7. Hans Leyendecker; Georg Mascolo. "The chats of the Wurzburg and Ansbach terrorists with the Islamic State". Suddeutsche Zeitung (in German). Retrieved 2 October 2016. "Nicht mit einem Messer. Mach es mit der Axt." [Don't use a knife. Do it with the axe]
  8. Excerpt of Muhammad Riyad's martyrdom video, translated by Hasem al-Yusufi
  9. 1 2 "Mann attackiert Zugreisende mit Axt – vier Schwerverletzte". Der Spiegel. 19 July 2016. Retrieved 19 July 2016.
  10. "Germany axe attack: Assault on train in Wurzburg injured HK family". BBC. 19 July 2016. Retrieved 19 July 2016.
  11. "Hand-painted Isis flag 'found in room of train attacker'". thelocal.de. 19 July 2016. Retrieved 19 July 2016.
  12. "Germany axe attack: Assault on train in Wurzburg". bbc.com. BBC. 19 July 2016. Retrieved 19 July 2016.
  13. "Hong Kong family reveals terror of German train attack". The Guardian. Retrieved 20 July 2016. He was then shot dead by police as he began to attack officers with the axe.
  14. "Regionalzug nahe Würzburg: Drei Schwerverletzte bei Attacke mit Axt – DIE WELT". Welt.de. 18 July 2016. Retrieved 18 July 2016.
  15. "Axt-Attentat: Chat belegt Kaltblütigkeit". "Main Post". 15 September 2016. Retrieved 15 September 2016.
  16. "Germany Attackers Had Contact with Suspected IS Members", by Andreas Ulrich, Spiegel Online
  17. "Riaz A. erfuhr vom Tod eines Freundes in Afghanistan". Die Welt (in German). Retrieved 21 July 2016. Er schlug ihr mit der Axt zwei Mal ins Gesicht.
  18. "German train 'axe attack': Many reported hurt". BBC. 18 July 2016. Retrieved 18 July 2016.
  19. "Axt-Täter von Würzburg rief «Allahu Akbar»". Tages Anzeiger (in German). 19 July 2016. Retrieved 18 July 2016.
  20. ""Police: Attacker sought revenge on 'infidels'". WRDW12. Associated Press. 19 July 2016. Retrieved 23 July 2016.
  21. "Bundesanwalt übernimmt Ermittlungen nach Axt-Attentat". Berliner Morgenpost (in German). Retrieved 21 July 2016. Es bestehe der Verdacht, "dass der Attentäter die Tat als Mitglied des sogenannten Islamischen Staats zielgerichtet begangen hat"
  22. Wheatstone, Richard (19 July 2016). "Germany train attack: Hong Kong family hacked at by axe-wielding teen 'had just been to wedding in UK'". Mirror.co.uk. Retrieved 23 July 2016.
  23. "Zweifel an Identität des Axt-Attentäters". Frankfurter_Allgemeine_Zeitung. 20 July 2016. Retrieved 21 July 2016.
  24. "Authorities: Germany Train Attacker May Be Pakistani". NewsPakistan. 20 July 2016. Retrieved 21 July 2016.
  25. "Video shows Bavarian bomber pledging allegiance to IS". SBS. 26 July 2016. Retrieved 26 July 2016.
  26. "Doubt cast on Bavaria axe attacker's nationality". The Local. 20 July 2016. Retrieved 21 July 2016.
  27. Fritz, Thomas; Stahl, Benjamin (26 July 2016). "Axt-Attentäter: Gaukönigshofen ist geschockt" [In Gaukönigshofen, where the assassin had lived in a foster home for two weeks, nothing is like it was.]. Main Post. Retrieved 1 August 2016. In Gaukönigshofen, wo der Attentäter seit zwei Wochen in einer Pflegefamilie gelebt hatte, ist nichts mehr, wie es war.
  28. Angerer, Carlo; Helsel, Phil (19 July 2016). "Man Attacks Passengers on Train in Germany, 3 Severely Hurt". NBC News. Retrieved 19 July 2016. Hermann was quoted by NBC's German partners ZDF as saying the 17-year-old was an unaccompanied refugee, and lived with a caretaker or foster family in Ochsenfurt, south of Würzburg.
  29. "German police fatally shoot attacker with axe on passenger train". CBC News. Associated Press. 18 July 2016. Retrieved 23 July 2016.
  30. "Riaz A. erfuhr vom Tod eines Freundes in Afghanistan". Die Welt (in German). 19 July 2015. Retrieved 21 July 2016. Er sei gläubiger Muslim gewesen, aber nur an Feiertagen in die Moschee gegangen und nicht als radikal oder fanatisch aufgefallen.
  31. 1 2 "German train attack: IS releases video of 'Afghan knifeman'". BBC News. 19 July 2016. Retrieved 23 July 2016.
  32. "IS' 'Amaq News Agency Releases Video of Alleged Wuerzburg Attacker Identifying as 'Soldier of the Caliphate'". SITE Intelligence Group. 19 July 2016. Retrieved 23 July 2016.
  33. 1 2 Hack, Jens (19 July 2016). "German train ax attack puts Merkel migrant policy back in spotlight". Reuters. Retrieved 20 July 2016.
  34. "German train 'axe attack': more than 20 reported to be injured". NZH. 19 July 2016. Retrieved 19 July 2016.
  35. "German axe attack on train: Isil claim Afghan refugee who injured four as one of its 'fighters'". The Daily Telegraph UK. 18 July 2016. Retrieved 19 July 2016.
  36. Hack, Jens (19 July 2016). "Afghan refugee with ax attacks passengers on German train". Reuters Canada. Retrieved 23 July 2016.
  37. Troianovski, Anton. "Afghan Migrant Shot Dead After Hatchet Attack on German Train". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 18 July 2016.
  38. 1 2 Herrmann pocht auf strengere Kontrollen an Grenzen, Rheinische Post, 21 July 2016, in German
  39. Perrine Mouterde. "Attaque en Allemagne : « Le danger, c'est que ces loups solitaires peuvent faire des émules »". Le Monde. Retrieved 20 July 2016. ’il était intégré et qu’il n’a montré aucun signe de radicalisation. Il avait un comportement normal et n’est jamais apparu sur les radars des services de renseignement, de la police ou des autorités. C’était un gars normal qui vivait au milieu des réfugiés, comme il y en a dans tous les pays. Peut-être qu’il était frustré par sa situation, ne se voyait pas d’avenir. Il a pu regarder la propagande de l’EI sur Internet, les vidéos, etc., jusqu’à ce que se produise cette « radicalisation éclair », du jour au lendemain. Il semble pour l’instant que son cas soit assez similaire à celui du tueur de Nice
  40. "German axe attack on train: Isil claim Afghan refugee who injured four as one of its 'fighters'". The Telegraph. Retrieved 19 July 2016.
  41. "IS' 'Amaq Says Axe Attack on German Train Carried Out by IS "Soldier"". SITE Intelligence Group. 19 July 2016. Retrieved 23 July 2016.
  42. "Two Hongkongers critically hurt in German axe attack by Afghan refugee who kept Islamic State flag at home". South China Morning Post. 19 July 2016. Retrieved 23 July 2016.
  43. "CE condemns violent attack in Würzburg, Germany". Info.gov.hk. 19 July 2016. Retrieved 23 July 2016.
  44. "Immigration Department follows up incident of Hong Kong residents being attacked in Würzburg, Germany". Info.gov.hk. 19 July 2016. Retrieved 23 July 2016.
  45. "Immigration Dept to help attack victims". News.gov.hk. 19 July 2016. Retrieved 23 July 2016.
  46. "German train ax attack puts Merkel migrant policy back in spotlight". Reuters. 19 July 2016.
  47. Philip Oltermann. "Germany's first attack by radicalised asylum seeker alarms officials". The Guardian. Retrieved 25 July 2016. German terrorist experts have drawn comparisons between Monday night’s attack and an incident in Hanover on 26 February, in which 15-year-old student Safia S stabbed a policeman in the neck during a routine ID check. Security agencies in Germany were still investigating the student’s claims that she had been acting upon orders from Isis.
  48. "German politicians slow to react to Würzburg attack". Deutsche Welle. 19 July 2016. Retrieved 24 July 2016.
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