Terrifying price of Merkel’s decision: From teenage refugee’s axe attack on German train passengers to the Munich massacre – her grand immigration plan isn’t looking so grand these days, writes SUE REID
After hiding in a lavatory on the commuter train, Riaz Khan jumped out, hacking indiscriminately with an axe and a knife at passengers. He maimed four tourists from Hong Kong, leaving two close to death as their skulls and bodies were smashed to pieces.
Riaz Khan Ahmadzai, who attacked people on a train in Germany earlier this week
As Erik, a 25-year-old paramedic and one of the first to arrive at the scene from the medical centre in the nearby town of Ochsenfurt, told me afterwards: ‘When I climbed into the train, I could see blood everywhere. People lay on the floor. They had gaping holes in their heads, their chests, their stomachs. They are the worst injuries I have ever seen.
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Thousands, including Syrians, lied about their age, saying they were under 18 and without relatives. It was a ruse to get themselves at the front of the queue to claim asylum. At one stage, ten ‘unaccompanied minors’ per hour were entering Germany and the rest of Europe.
But one thing is sure: the vast majority of arrivals were from countries with links to Islamic State (IS), which peddles a hatred of the West and its lifestyle.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel arrives for the last cabinet meeting prior to her summer vacations at the chancellery in Berlin, Germany, this week
This prompted Hans-Georg Maassen, head of Germany’s domestic intelligence agency, to warn that IS had deliberately planted jihadists among the migrants flowing into Europe. ‘The terror risk is very high,’ he said in February.
A few weeks later, he added: ‘I am concerned about the high number of migrants whose identities we don’t know because they had no official documents when they entered the country.’
So is Merkel’s grand, liberal gesture being exposed as damaging to her people?
Certainly, in Ochsenfurt, where train attacker Riaz Khan lived in a 36-bed migrant hostel until two weeks ago, many residents are asking why their leader was so foolish as to let someone like him settle among them.
For quickly after the attack, it turned out that Khan was a fraud. He said he was 17, but investigators believe he was much older. And though he claimed to be an Afghan refugee fleeing violence, it is thought he was a Pakistani economic migrant.
So why did he bite the generous German hand that fed him?
Khan was about to start an apprenticeship at a baker’s in the Ochsenfurt area. His upkeep and pocket money were paid for by the German state.
Police officers escort people from inside the shopping center as they respond to a shooting rampage in Munich
Before he moved to the foster family, he was one of 250 migrants living in three hostels in the town of 11,000 people, which has done its best to welcome the newcomers. A fourth hostel is due to open next month. Sebastian, a 41-year-old bookbinder who lives in Ochsenfurt, told me the town has a long history of accepting refugees. There is a Syrian Orthodox chapel in the town catering for migrants who arrived 20 years ago.,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,
Nearly 3,000 migrants and refugees have already perished in the Mediterranean this year, while almost 250,000 have reached Europe, the International Organisation for Migration said yesterday.
Members of the public run away from the Olympia Einkaufszentrum mall after a shooting in Munich
I first met Samir last autumn. He had walked into Berlin with his hopes high after paying a trafficker for a place on a boat from Turkey to Greece.
He was given a camp bed in a sports hall along with hundreds of others. Outside, Berliners threw a ‘refugees welcome’ party with balloons and songs.
Police secures the area of subway station Karlsplatz near a Munich shopping mall yesterday following the shooting rampage which put the area into lockdown while police hunted the attackers
Obviously excited, he told me he expected to get a place at college to do an electronics course and a room in a flat where he could study quietly.
What pipe dreams. After a month, in October last year, Samir had heard nothing from the immigration authorities in Germany. He was left to rot. ‘Every day I was bored. I was getting suspicious that Mrs Merkel’s promises were not true,’ he says now. ‘All over Berlin there were Africans, Pakistanis and Afghans pretending to be Syrians. Everywhere was overcrowded.
‘The officials could not cope. We Syrians, who had been invited, were not given a fair chance.’
He filled in his forms to claim asylum earlier this year, providing the papers that prove he is Syrian. Since then he has heard nothing and officials say it may be December before he gets an answer one way or the other.
Meanwhile, in Deir Al Zour, an IS‑riddled city in eastern Syria, his family live in a rented first-floor flat and wait for news of their eldest son.
‘I dare not tell them how bad it has been for me in Germany,’ he says. ‘I am squashed in with five other young Syrians in one room, and we all feel the same sorrow about coming here.’
Samir is a genuine refugee. He has shown me his papers and given me the names of his parents. But it is clear that he feels burning resentment about his plight.
Miles away in Ochsenfurt, no one really knows what transformed Riaz Khan into a would-be assassin.
Was he radicalised by Islamic State before he set off from Pakistan or turned into a ‘sleeper’ for the terrorist outfit during his long journey?
Or was it in Germany, as he idled his time away in a hostel, that his mind warped to murderous intent?
He stole the axe from the outhouse of his foster parents’ home — so could it have been opportunism that prompted him to act?
One thing is certain. With hostility growing among genuine refugees and an increasing number of Germans, Mrs Merkel’s grand project isn’t looking so grand these days.