It must have been a terrible shock for children and teachers in the schoolyard in Berlin-Neukölln. Hours after the violent act in the afternoon, the police cordoned off the elementary school, with red and white ribbons hanging everywhere. Two girls are said to have been attacked and stabbed in the schoolyard by a perpetrator with a knife.

One of the two girls, aged seven and eight, suffered life-threatening injuries, the other serious, a police spokeswoman said. The alleged perpetrator, a 39-year-old man, was arrested by the police near the crime scene.

“The background is unclear so far”

It was not initially known whether he knew the children and what the motives were. According to the Berlin Senate Department for Education, he had no accomplices. “At the moment we are assuming that it is a lone perpetrator,” said a spokeswoman for Education Senator Katharina Günther-Wünsch (CDU) in the evening after the senator’s visit to the crime scene. It is not assumed that the crime was politically or religiously motivated.

“The background is so far unclear,” the police tweeted. Whether the suspect knew the girls is the subject of the investigation, a spokeswoman said. According to the newspaper “B.Z.” he had no relationship with his victims. There are indications of a mental illness, it said. The police initially did not want to confirm either. A homicide detective is investigating.

Alleged perpetrator arrested

The alarm was received by police at 3:17 p.m. The attacker apparently went to the schoolyard of the Neukölln Evangelical School on Mainzer Straße. According to the police, the crime happened there. The girls went to elementary school – in the nicest weather with sun and blue skies, many children who were cared for after class probably played outside in the afternoon.

The two injured girls were taken to the hospital by rescue workers. The police arrested the alleged perpetrator. The knife was also seized. According to “B.Z.” the man is said to have been waiting for the police.

Immediately after the crime, the other children were not allowed to leave the school building. They were cared for, but the police initially closed the building as a precaution. Later, the children were led outside from another exit of the school, where many parents were already waiting. Police wrote: “The school was searched by our colleagues and all other students were handed over to their parents.”

“Incredible Act”

Several ambulances and police cars were still parked in the streets near the school, police officers with helmets were posted on and in front of the school grounds. Onlookers waited in front of the barriers. A certain area in the schoolyard was also cordoned off.

The school in the northern part of the large district of Neukölln, which is densely populated with apartment buildings, includes a primary school as well as an integrated secondary school and a high school. Children in grades 1 to 13 attend the school, supported by the evangelical church. The school was dismayed. “The entire school community is deeply affected and appalled,” the headmaster said in a statement on the website. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the two children and their families.”

Berlin’s new governing mayor Kai Wegner (CDU) wrote on Twitter in the evening that he was shocked by this “incredible act”. “My thoughts are with the two injured girls at this difficult time.” He is in close contact with the police, “who have already taken the perpetrator into custody”.

Berlin’s Interior Senator Iris Spranger and Neukölln District Mayor Martin Hikel (both SPD) also reacted deeply. Education Senator Günther-Wünsch informed herself about the situation on site. “My thoughts are with the injured children and their families,” she said. “Now it is important to clarify the incident and wait for the police investigation.”

According to Education Senator Günther-Wünsch, there will be no regular school operations on Thursday and Friday. In addition, the planned exams for the middle school leaving certificate should not take place.