The flags on public buildings in the north fly at half-mast; in the Kiel state parliament, many of the depressed-looking deputies and cabinet members are dressed in black.

“I am deeply saddened,” says Schleswig-Holstein’s Interior Minister Sabine Sütterlin-Waack (CDU) in view of the deadly knife attack on a regional train on Wednesday. She thanks the “courageous, even heroic effort of some fellow passengers” who had overpowered the perpetrator on the train.

A 17-year-old and a 19-year-old died in the attack on a regional train from Kiel to Hamburg. Both attended a school in Neumünster. “They knew each other,” said Sütterlin-Waack. Five other people were injured. Three of them are still in the hospital, two had to be operated on. The alleged perpetrator, a 33-year-old stateless Palestinian, was brought before the magistrate in Itzehoe in the afternoon. The arrest warrant has now been issued. He was accused of two insidious murders and four attempts at manslaughter, said senior public prosecutor Peter Müller-Rakow. His motive remains unclear.

The question of the motive for the crime

“We are working flat out to gather all the facts,” says the interior minister when asked about a motive for the crime. “I would also like to say explicitly that the deeds are too recent and the knowledge is not yet sufficient to draw political conclusions or make demands today.”

In Brokstedt, where the train stopped after the terrible attack, people are deeply shocked. On this day, armed police officers ride on the train to Hamburg and go through the compartments. There are three employees from DB Sicherheit at the station. With their presence, they wanted to give travelers a sense of security, says one of them.

People lay flowers and candles in the bus shelter on the platform in the direction of Hamburg. A young man dressed all in black holds a bouquet of white tulips. He is a friend of the dead man, he says. “Never forget my man” is written next to a heart on a piece of paper that he puts down with the flowers in the bus shelter. Jürgen Schröder is on his way back to Kiel, waiting for the train on the opposite platform. Today he gets on with a queasy feeling, says the 59-year-old. But he’s not afraid.

Details of the alleged perpetrator

In the meantime, it has become known about the alleged perpetrator that he came to Germany in 2014. He was registered in North Rhine-Westphalia until the end of 2020. According to dpa information, he was repeatedly conspicuous for various crimes during this time. According to security circles, it was, among other things, proceedings for threats, bodily harm, property damage, shoplifting and sexual harassment. Several media had previously reported.

In mid-August 2021, responsibility was then transferred to the immigration authorities in Kiel. According to the police, the 33-year-old was most recently without a permanent address. As a stateless Palestinian, he was granted what is known as subsidiary protection status. That means the man could come up with reasons why he shouldn’t be deported. In 2021, a procedure to withdraw subsidiary protection was initiated. How this turned out was initially unclear. The interior and legal committee requested a report on the case from the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees.

The man was last in custody for a year because of another knife attack in Hamburg. He was in August 2022 by the District Court of Hamburg-St. Georg was sentenced to one year and one week for dangerous bodily harm and theft, said court spokesman Kai Wantzen. According to the judgment, which is not final, the man attacked and injured a man with a knife in front of a homeless shelter in Hamburg in January 2022. Both had stood in line for food distribution and got into an argument.

The 33-year-old appealed the verdict. The district court had initially initiated follow-up investigations, and there were also scheduling difficulties with an expert. Therefore, a date for a new trial could not be set. Because the duration of the detention threatened to exceed the sentence of the district court, the district court lifted the arrest warrant on January 19. Since only the convicted person had appealed the verdict, the district court should not have pronounced a longer prison sentence, Wantzen explained.

According to City Councilor Christian Zierau, the city of Kiel was not informed that he was then released. According to the investigators, there were no proceedings against the suspect in Schleswig-Holstein.

Incidentally, according to the Kiel Ministry of Integration, the 33-year-old was not obliged to leave the country. On Wednesday, the suspect was at the Kiel immigration office to apply for a residence card, Interior Minister Sütterlin-Waack said. From there he was sent to the registration office. A little later he got on the train towards Hamburg.

Important questions are open

Important questions remained unanswered. From which country did the 33-year-old come to Germany in 2014? Where did he stay for months in 2021? What was the outcome of the initiated procedure for the withdrawal of subsidiary protection?

Without knowing all this, Sütterlin-Waack and Prime Minister Daniel Günther (CDU) drove to Brokstedt in the afternoon, where Federal Interior Minister Nancy Faeser (SPD) had announced that they would be there. They commemorate the victims there. Together with Sütterlin-Waack and Brokstedt’s mayor Clemens Preine, they lay white roses at the shelter on the platform. Afterwards they wanted to speak to police officers, firefighters and paramedics who were involved in the operation on Wednesday. It was important to her “to be able to thank the people who were here and helped so quickly,” said Faeser.

Police notice dated January 25th.