Six wounded in knife attack at German anti-Islam rally

Police officers secured the area quickly (Rene Priebe)
Police officers secured the area quickly (Rene Priebe)

Six people were wounded in a knife attack at a far-right rally in Germany on Friday, including a prominent critic of Islam, drawing immediate condemnation from the nation's leaders.

The attack, just days before EU-wide elections, comes amid a spike of politically motivated violence in Germany.

Interior Minister Nancy Faeser raised the possibility that the assault could have been Islamist motivated.

A man with a knife attacked and wounded several people on the market square in the city of Mannheim in southwest Germany at around 11:35 am (0935 GMT), police said in a statement.

Five of those wounded were taking part in a rally organised by Pax Europa, a campaign group against radical Islam, police said.

A police officer who intervened was also stabbed several times in the back of the head, it said.

Another officer fired at the attacker and wounded him.

"The extent and severity of the injuries are not yet known," the police said, adding that the identity of the attacker had not yet been determined.

- 'Terrible' -

Der Spiegel magazine said a suspect had been identified and named him as Sulaiman A., a 25-year-old who was born in Herat, Afghanistan, and lived in Hesse state.

The suspect had not previously come to the attention of the authorities as an extremist but investigators believe he probably acted with an Islamist motive, the magazine said.

"The images from Mannheim are terrible," Chancellor Olaf Scholz wrote on X, adding that "Violence is absolutely unacceptable in our democracy. The perpetrator must be severely punished."

Pax Europa said on its website that one of the victims was Michael Stuerzenberger, a German far-right activist and blogger, who had been due to take part in the rally.

Stuerzenberger suffered serious stab wounds to his face and to his leg, the group said.

Stuerzenberger has been a prominent anti-Islam campaigner in Germany for several years.

The Bavarian security services have accused him of making "Islamophobic statements", and has classed Pax Europa as Islamophobic.

- 'Great danger' -

Faeser called for a thorough investigation into the attacker's motive.

"If the investigations reveal an Islamist motive, this would be a further confirmation of the great danger posed by Islamist acts of violence," she said in a statement.

Germany has been on high alert for possible Islamist attacks since the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war, with the country's domestic intelligence chief warning that the risk of such assaults is "real and higher than it has been for a long time".

The country had also seen a spate of attacks on politicians at work or on the campaign trail ahead of EU elections on June 9.

Matthias Ecke, a European Parliament lawmaker for Scholz's SPD party, was set upon this month by a group of youths as he put up election posters in the eastern city of Dresden.

Days later, former Berlin mayor Franziska Giffey was hit on the head and neck with a bag as she visited a library in the capital.

President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said last week that he was worried by the growing trend and said Germans "must never get used to violence in the battle of political opinions".

bur-fec/imm