Cologne The sprinkler system of a fast food restaurant probably prevented worse from happening. A culprit had ignited an incendiary device and taken a hostage. Was this a terrorism attack? The police are asking witnesses for photos and videos.
The armed culprit ignited a molotov cocktail in a fast food restaurant and locked himself in a pharmacy with a hostage: After some dramatic hours at the main station in Cologne, with four people injured, the investigators are now examining a possible terrorism background to the crime. Via short message service Twitter the police asked witnesses on Tuesday morning „to upload photos and videos at nrw.hinweisportal.de which could cover the crime scene“. The investigation is running at peak levels, the officers tweeted.
The complete closure of the main station lasted long into the evening affecting ten of thousands of commuters and hundreds of trains. On Tuesday the Deutsche Bahn expect a smooth start into the day. „The local and regional traffic can resume according to schedule“, said a spokesperson during the night. There might be some delays and cancellations in the long distance traffic. The train company asked travellers to inform themselves prior to their trip to find out about their connections.
A special forces unit stormed the pharmacy on monday afternoon and injured the culprit seriously with several shots. The hostage suffered minor injuries. A 14-year-old girl was injured when the incendiary device detonated in the fast food restaurant. Another person in the restaurant suffered a shock when the molotov cocktail exploded.
The investigators suspect that the fact that the sprinkler system’s water masses caused the culprit to leave the restaurant. He locked himself with his hostage in the pharmacy across the way. The man was armed with gas cartridges and fire accelerants, according to the investigators.
„When entering the pharmacy he is said to have shouted that he is part of the terrorism group Daesh, according to pedestrians“, said officer-in-charge, Klaus Rüschenschmidt on Monday night. „Daesh“ is the Arabic name for the terror militia Islamic State. There were no further indications in this matter.
The investigators have to clarify the identity of the culprit unequivocally. A passport of a 55-year-old Syrian man was found who is allowed to stay(tolerated) in Germany until 2021. The person with this residence permit is known to the authorities because of various offences like theft and threats. The hostage-taker is „most likely“ the owner of these documents, according to the investigators.
The Deutsche Bahn does not expect any serious consequences for train customers at Cologne’s main station today. It was already possible to get passengers to Berlin and Frankfurt on Monday evening, said a spokesperson on Tuesday morning. Customers who could not travel were handed vouchers for taxi companies and hotels. Several hundred of those vouchers were handed out in total.
Nobody was stranded at the station over night, the info point at the main station was thus temporarily completely empty during the night.
The main station in Cologne is one of Germany’s most frequented train stations. The train hub is located in the middle of the city centre, directly beside the cathedral. 1,300 trains pass through here every day, with up to 280,000 passengers arriving or leaving on eleven platforms.
(Original text: dpa / Translation: Mareike Graepel)