Germany train attacker may be of Pakistani origin: authorities

Published: July 20, 2016
Sources say Riaz might have pretended to be Afghan in order to have a better chance at securing asylum. PHOTO: REUTERS

Sources say Riaz might have pretended to be Afghan in order to have a better chance at securing asylum. PHOTO: REUTERS

WUERZBURG, GERMANY: German authorities have cast doubt on whether a teenager who went on an axe rampage on a Bavarian train was really an Afghan refugee, saying Wednesday he might have been from Pakistan.

The Islamic State group released a video on Tuesday purportedly featuring the 17-year-old, who was shot dead by police following the train attack in which he injured five people, two of them critically.

German police kill Afghan teen after train axe attack

However, sources close to the German security services now think he might have pretended to be Afghan on arrival in Germany in 2015 in order to have a better chance at securing asylum, television station ZDF reported.

In the IS video the youth uses phrases of a dialect of Pashto spoken in Pakistan and not Afghanistan and experts have indicated that his accent is also clearly Pakistani, ZDF said. A Pakistani document was also found in his room.

The name he used in the video, “Mohammed Riyadh”, does not match the name under which he registered in Germany, Riaz Kahn, the station added.

German authorities said they had authenticated the video.

On Tuesday, authorities said they had found a hand-painted IS flag and what they called a suicide letter among the attacker’s belongings.

“The perpetrator of the stabbing attack in Germany was one of the fighters of the Islamic State,” the IS-linked Amaq news agency said.

Man with axe attacks passengers on German train

Locals described the assailant, identified in media reports as Riaz A, as “calm and even-keeled” and a “devout Muslim who did not appear to be radical or a fanatic”, according to Joachim Herrmann, interior minister of Bavaria state.

“According to the investigation thus far, there was no evidence on site to point to him belonging to the Islamist network,” Herrmann said.

Police however later found a farewell letter he apparently left for his father in which he said the world’s Muslims “must defend themselves”.

“Now pray for me that I can take revenge on non-believers, pray for me that I can get to heaven,” the note said.

Prosecutors said he shouted “Allahu akbar” (God is greatest) three times as he made his way through the carriage.

An eyewitness told DPA news agency that the train, which had been carrying around 25 people, looked “like a slaughterhouse”.

Germany has thus far escaped the kind of large-scale militant attack seen in the southern French city of Nice last week, in which 31-year-old Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel used a truck to mow down 84 people.

That attack was also claimed by IS without the assailant having clear ties to the group.

A record 1.1 million people were let in to Germany last year, with Syrians making up the largest group followed by Afghans.

Hand-painted Islamic State flag found in room of train attacker: German minister

The assailant had arrived as an unaccompanied minor in Germany in June 2015 and had been staying with a foster family in the region for the last two weeks, Herrmann said.

“We must determine what the motive was and to what extent he really belonged to the Islamist scene or self-radicalised very recently,” Herrmann said, adding that the assailant had no criminal record in Germany.

Four members of a family of tourists from Hong Kong were injured in the attack, with two of them in intensive care, and a passer-by was also hurt.

The elder daughter of the Yau family told local media that her parents tried to defend her sister’s boyfriend when the axe-wielding teenager went for him.

“Originally the assailant was attacking my sister’s boyfriend and when my mother and father saw, they went up to get in the way and then they got injured,” Sylvia, 30, told the Hong Kong-based Apple Daily newspaper Tuesday night.

Her father and sister’s boyfriend are now in intensive care with serious head injuries. Her sister Tracy, 26, and mother, 58, were also injured, while Sylvia’s 17-year-old brother was unharmed.

“My father-in-law’s friends received pictures and said they were having lots of fun,” said Sylvia’s husband, who was not named.

France reels from second ‘terror’ attack in eight months

In May, a mentally unstable 27-year-old man wielding a knife killed one person and injured three others on another Bavarian regional train.

Early reports had suggested he had yelled “Allahu akbar” but police later said there was no evidence pointing to a political motive. He is being held in a psychiatric hospital.

In February, a 15-year-old girl of Turkish origin stabbed a policeman in the neck with a kitchen knife at Hanover train station in what prosecutors later said was an IS-inspired attack.

Before ZDF reported on the questions over the attacker’s nationality, Bavarian interior minister Herrmann had warned against demonising asylum seekers.

“It is undisputed that he was a refugee and if he hadn’t been there, he wouldn’t have committed this act. But I don’t think that we should make blanket judgements in any way about refugees.”

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Reader Comments (35)

  • Jul 20, 2016 - 12:13PM

    Another likely feather in the cap of Pakistan.Recommend

  • Raaz
    Jul 20, 2016 - 12:21PM

    No surpriseRecommend

  • asy ma wail !
    Jul 20, 2016 - 12:26PM

    Well, it doesnt matter where he came from, but for the correction of the record and to the surprise of German Authorities, Pakistan has been hosting millions of Afghans for more than 3 decades, and having first hand experience with them as a Pashtoon, the Afghan generation born and brought up in Pakistan tend to speak the accents they encounter on the streets and in the schools. Not only Afghans, but we the Pasthoons of tribal areas, have been doing the same when we migrate to cities or other parts of KPK.We may maintain the accent in house but generally adopt to the one spoken in the streets of the place we live in.Recommend

  • Singh
    Jul 20, 2016 - 12:27PM

    Do u have any doubt?Recommend

  • wb
    Jul 20, 2016 - 12:32PM

    After calling themselves Indian and ruining our image though their dirty work, Pakistanis are now calling themselves Afghans and Iranians and ruining their images through their dirty work.

    I request Pakistanis to never call yourselves Indians or Afghans or Iranians ever again to ruin our names.Recommend

  • Hella
    Jul 20, 2016 - 12:39PM

    Seems like Pakistanis are everybody except Pakistanis. Within Pakistan they are Arabs, elsewhere they are Indians and now even Afghans. Pakistanis have not only lost their own identities but also any residual self respect. Now only survival matters.Recommend

  • Hakim Afghani
    Jul 20, 2016 - 1:06PM

    From his face I can honestly tell you he is not Afghani and Afghans do not have name starting by: Riyadh

    I never ever heard a single afghan named by Riyadh in my entire life. This name is not used by Afghans… Maybe by Arabs but not Afghans.Recommend

  • point
    Jul 20, 2016 - 1:08PM

    OMG I saw the video on a website. He definitely is speaking Afghan Pushto. He says weerkam, when we pushtons say warkam. The dialect is totally different. Come and visit and speak with the afghans in Peshwar and you will get a clear visionRecommend

  • Iqbal Hadi Zaidi
    Jul 20, 2016 - 1:12PM

    This news itself is a new news to me at least, if not you and I, to corroborate my statement, will elucidate it (a) His name as Riaz Kahn is not Pakistani name because our Khan is spelled like this and not as Kahn (b) His another name Mohammad Riyadh also does not conform to our style because our Riaz is written like this one but they have spelled it as Riyadh (c) I absolutely disbelieve that a 17 year old boy will quit Pakistan and seek asylum in Germany which is very true for Afghanis as human life is at continual risk in Afghanistan and not in my beloved Pakistan. Iqbal Hadi ZaidiRecommend

  • Bunny Rabbit
    Jul 20, 2016 - 1:17PM

    And why does this not come as a surprise ?Recommend

  • wiserneighbour
    Jul 20, 2016 - 1:17PM

    identity crisis !we are Arabs,we are Indians(superior,with white skin),we are Iranians and now we are Afghans!What we are,we don’t know.we will pretend in accordance with situations!!!Recommend

  • Careless Whispers
    Jul 20, 2016 - 1:19PM

    So an accent is the proof of identifying someone nationality, i know people who speak in diff accent… funny…. reportRecommend

  • Merwais Khan
    Jul 20, 2016 - 1:24PM

    He ain’t look like an Afghani. More like Egyptian or Yameni or Pakistani. Afghans are white. Not that dark. LOLRecommend

  • alko
    Jul 20, 2016 - 1:46PM

    The accent cannot be a prove, but the name like Ejaz, Nawaz, Sarfaraz are very common Pakistani names and such names are rare in Afghanistan. But, the proofing clue is that Pakistani had been involved in many terror attacks over the world.
    During the migration crisis to EU, thousands of Pakistani citizen illegally held Afghan passports and ID cards which is based on weak system of issuing Afghan passports and national ID cards. The main reason was to see asylum under the name of Afghan citizen. In addition I am not sure that Afghans will be much interested in global terrorism, because Afghans are tired of war, but the current war and violence is an imposed project from neighboring countries. Recommend

  • Malik Saab
    Jul 20, 2016 - 2:03PM

    @Hakim Afghani On one Afghan forum they are even claiming that the attacker is a Punjabi.Since when Punjabis stated speaking Pushto?. You guys just know how to put the blame on others. Also you stated that he do not look like an Afghan. Why not?. I have met many Afghans of the similar faces like him. :
    Afghans just want to protect their status in Germany and are tying to frame Pakistan in this case.. Recommend

  • Haji Atiya
    Jul 20, 2016 - 2:09PM

    @Merwais Khan:
    Many Kashmiris are even whiter and better looking than Afghans, so what ? You’re saying there are no Afghans with a tawny complexion ??Recommend

  • Ali
    Jul 20, 2016 - 2:54PM

    Stupid reporting and stupid propaganda. There are larger forces at work here. What possibly could a Pakistani achieve from doing this?Recommend

  • Asif
    Jul 20, 2016 - 2:55PM

    Most of Afghans (if not all) are brought up in refugee camps in Pakistan. No wonder if his dialect has some influence.

    Thanks to corruption in our gov agencies, they have Pak ID cards and passports but obviously asylum comes cheaper on their own Afghani passport and bad mouthing about Pakistan. Recommend

  • Shakil Ahmed
    Jul 20, 2016 - 3:03PM

    and how many Afghan refugees live in Pakistan picking up Pakistani Pashto accent ? lolRecommend

  • Mostly Bull
    Jul 20, 2016 - 5:39PM

    @ Ali: Stupid reporting and stupid propaganda. There are larger forces at work here. What possibly could a Pakistani achieve from doing this?…whatever Qandeel’s brother achieved by finishing her.Recommend

  • Jul 20, 2016 - 6:08PM

    EU should understand that Pakistan is in the process of rebuilding nation.CPEC is our goal.No Pakistan national is involved in any such activities since long.Currently Afghanistan and with connivance of USA are after Pakistan to sabotage CPEC.We assure EU that be ensure that your doubt will not work agaist PAKISTAN. Your accuse in this activity may be any one but not a Pakistani,Insha Allah.Recommend

  • Np
    Jul 20, 2016 - 6:51PM

    @Faiz Muhammad Sial:
    Since long? The California shooter woman was a Pakistani. That happened just 6 months back.Recommend

  • bogus
    Jul 20, 2016 - 8:55PM

    This won’t be helpful for the actual Afghan’s seeking asylum … common knowledge that Pakistanis have tried to disguise their real origin as Afghan’s to seek economic refuge in Europe.Recommend

  • hnr
    Jul 20, 2016 - 10:11PM

    It does not matter what you are,but what matters is that it is turning to be an incubator for these extreme acts for the glory of r religions and rapid access to heaven.Recommend

  • curious2
    Jul 20, 2016 - 11:45PM

    I understand that national pride might want Pakistanis to hope/believe this murderer was from Afghanistan … but nobody should believe that the people of Germany care whether he’s from Afghanistan or Pakistan. The evidence will determine his national origin not some bias towards either country. Recommend

  • arsal
    Jul 21, 2016 - 12:07AM

    @iqbal h zaidi…. i don’t care much about your first two points, but saying that a 17 year old kid would never quit Pakistan and seek asylum in Europe is totally absurd… i know guys who left universities under-graduation, a guy just 12 year old in my village near Gujraat who hide in a tanker to go first to Turkey and then Greece via Iran…. this is happening everyday and mostly teenagers “quit” there beloved counrtyRecommend

    Jul 21, 2016 - 2:53AM

    A famous dialog of Deelip Kumar (Yousaf Khan), “Chandramukhi ho yaa Paaro; Ki Farak Painda Yaaro” aptly applies here. Does it make any difference where is is from, as long as it is established that he is indeed was refugee from Darul-Islam?Recommend

  • syed & syed
    Jul 21, 2016 - 3:03AM

    He may be son of Afghan refugee and born and raised in Pakistan.Recommend

  • Khattak
    Jul 21, 2016 - 5:34AM

    @syed & syed,,,,,If he was speaking Pashtu, it is understood he is an Afghan. Now the question what, who, & where a simple young man was converted into a terrorist, should be the focus of German investigation. Afghan madrassas & Indian madrassas of Deoband etc have not produced a single terrorist as far as I know.Recommend

  • Pakistani
    Jul 21, 2016 - 8:46AM

    Pakistan is itself a victim of terrorism.Recommend

  • Afghan
    Jul 21, 2016 - 12:03PM

    Crisis of identity exist in pakistan God knows the exact number of pakistanis that are enjoying western life by using Afghans name. There is two very obvious examples that I could write here. You may search for sayed Balkhi and umair ghori two pakistani guys living in western countries using Afghans name and their color and accent and background can be traced to karachi and sindh…!Recommend

  • asy ma wail !
    Jul 21, 2016 - 12:29PM


    True that, many and many managed to get the benefits in west, buts in not the crisis of identity, its called selfish opportunism – similar to thousands of afghans who managed to get Pakistan passports by bribing the corrupt down there to go n work in middle East. Go visit KSA and Dubai and see how they are “Pakistanis” :)Recommend

  • Someone
    Jul 21, 2016 - 12:54PM

    It is Afghans who are running abroad with Pakistani identity documents. Especially your refugees. Not the other way around. Pakistanis can’t get Afghan IDs, it does not happen and it is impossible.Recommend

  • Anwer-Ali
    Jul 21, 2016 - 11:17PM

    With due respect to all readers, one should understand the crime is committed and it should be punished according to the laws. No matter who the criminal belongs to (race/nation/language). Everybody knows there are criminal mindsets in every nation and they should be treated according to the law of the state.Recommend

  • Jul 22, 2016 - 5:18AM

    I completely agree when you say “Everybody knows there are criminal mindsets in every nation and they should be treated according to the law of the state.”
    BUT there is a big BUT the problem comes when the ‘nation’ the ‘state’ protects, encourages, trains these ‘criminal mindsets’ and launches them for political gains and wrecking the world with hate and bloodshed. Recommend

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