BERLIN (AP) — Germany’s federal prosecutor’s office has taken over the investigation into a bloody hostage taking in the western city of Cologne amid concerns that it was connected to Islamic extremism.
The office, which handles terrorism and national security cases in Germany, said Wednesday in a statement that the 55-year-old Syrian citizen — abbreviated to Mohammad A.R. as German authorities never release the last names of suspects — is charged with attempted murder in two cases and serious bodily harm.
Though it said there was “sufficient evidence” to connect the incident to “a radical-Islamist background,” it said it had not yet found enough evidence to classify the attack as a terror attack.
The suspect is accused of entering a fast food restaurant Monday inside Cologne’s train station, pouring fire starter on the floor and setting it alight, injuring two people.
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A 14-year-old girl was operated on Tuesday for severe burns while the other injured party was treated for smoke inhalation at the scene.
After the incident, the suspect is alleged to have moved to a nearby pharmacy where he took an employee hostage. After about two hours, police stormed the shop, shooting the suspect several times. The hostage was also injured, but it isn’t clear how and she has been released from hospital.
During the standoff, the suspect made several demands to authorities, prompting the terrorism investigation, prosecutors said.
In addition to demanding the release of a woman whose husband was active in terrorist activities, prosecutors wrote he “also claimed to be a member of the so-called Islamic State and wanted to travel to Syria.”
Prosecutors are now trying to determine whether the suspect, who came to Germany in 2015 and was granted asylum, “committed the attack as a member of the IS or another terrorist group or whether he, immediately before or while the attack, was in contact to or under the influence of a terror group.”
They are also investigating if the suspect had any accomplices.