Swiss train knifeman and female victim die from wounds, two others critical

The motive of the attacker, a 27-year-old Swiss man, remains unclear

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 14 August, 2016, 11:31am
UPDATED : Sunday, 14 August, 2016, 10:13pm

The man who attacked passengers on a crowded Swiss train with a knife and burning liquid died of his wounds Sunday, as did one of his victims, a 34-year-old woman, Swiss police said. Three others remain hospitalised with serious wounds.

Police are still searching for a motive but said there’s no indication the suspect, identified only as a 27-year-old Swiss man from a neighbouring region, had ties to extremist groups.

A 43-year-old woman, a six-year-old girl and 17-year-old girl remained hospitalised Sunday with serious injuries, St. Gallen canton state police spokesman Hans-Peter Kruesi said. A 17-year-old youth and 50-year-old man wounded in the attack have been treated and released, he said.

Kruesi said all the victims lived in the St. Gallen canton.

Police searched the suspect’s home after the Saturday afternoon attack on the train as it neared the station in Salez, close to the Liechtenstein border. Kruesi would not comment on what evidence was seized at the home, but said “so far there are no indications this was a terrorist or politically motivated crime”.

Police were not able to question the suspect before he died, Kruesi said, adding that the man had no criminal record and was not previously known to police.

He did not comment on whether the attacker’s religious affiliation was known to police, who on Saturday evening searched his home in one of the cantons bordering Saint Gallen.

“According to the information we have for the time being, the 27-year-old Swiss man poured out a flammable liquid ... (which) caught fire,” Saint Gallen police said in a statement.

The man, who “was also armed with at least one knife”, carried out the attack on a moving train near Switzerland’s eastern border with Liechtenstein and Austria, it said.

Seven people including the suspected attacker were admitted to hospital with burn and stab wounds, the statement said.

One woman and the attacker were “very seriously injured”, Kruesi said, adding that both their lives were in danger.

He said no one had overpowered the attacker, but that he had been hurt in the fire.

He said he could not confirm reports that the attacker had attempted to commit suicide at the scene.

Kruesi also denied reports alleging that the man had targeted one specific woman on the train, dousing her with the flammable liquid.

“That is not correct. This was not directed concretely at one person,” he said, adding that it remained unclear whether the attacker knew any of his victims.

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Dozens of people were on the train at the time of the attack, the police statement said.

Police said the attack took place near Salez station on a train running between Buchs and Sennwald.

Rescue workers rushed to the scene, including police, firefighters, ambulances and three rescue helicopters.

Saint Gallen prosecutors have opened a criminal investigation into the attack.

The incident is the latest in a string of assaults in Europe in recent months that have left the continent on edge.

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In January 2015, a jihadist assault on the Charlie Hebdo satirical newspaper in Paris left 12 dead while another four died in an attack on a Jewish supermarket in the city.

In November 2015, a coordinated jihadist attack claimed by IS in Paris left 130 people dead.

On March 22 this year, suicide bombers struck Brussels airport and a metro station in another coordinated jihadist attack claimed by IS near the European Union headquarters, killing 32 people.

On July 14, a Tunisian man rammed a truck into crowds of revellers in the southern French city of Nice, killing 85 people.

Swiss neighbour Germany has also seen a string of attacks in recent weeks.

In July there were two attacks by migrants in the southern state of Bavaria - an axe rampage on a train that injured Hong Kong tourists and a suicide bombing.

In Munich, an 18-year-old German-Iranian also went on a gun rampage in a shopping mall, leaving nine people dead.

In Belgium, a lone gunman armed with a Kalashnikov and other arms in August 2015 opened fire on a train but was overpowered by passengers.

Additional reporting by Associated Press