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HAMBURG (Reuters) – The migrant who killed one person and injured six others in a knife attack in a Hamburg supermarket on Friday was an Islamist known to German security forces, who say they believed he posed no immediate threat, the city-state’s interior minister said on Saturday.
A possible security lapse in a second deadly militant attack in less than a year, and two months before the general election, would be highly embarrassing for German intelligence, especially since security is a main theme in the Sept .
A Tunisian failed asylum seeker killed 12 people by driving a truck into a Christmas market in Berlin in December, slipping through the net after intelligence officers who had monitored him reached the conclusion he was no threat.
Hamburg Interior Minister Andy Grote told a news conference on Saturday that Friday’s 26-year-old attacker was registered in intelligence systems as an Islamist but not as a jihadist, as there was no evidence to link him to an imminent attack.
He also said the attacker, a Palestinian asylum seeker who could not be deported as he lacked identification documents, was psychologically unstable.
The Palestinian mission in Berlin had agreed to issue him with documents and he had agreed to leave Germany once these were ready, a process that takes a few months.
Security forces and ambulances are seen after a knife attack in a supermarket in Hamburg, Germany, July 28, 2017.Morris Mac Matzen
“What we can say of the motive of the attacker at the moment is that on the one side there are indications that he acted based on religious Islamist motives, and on the other hand there are indications of psychological instability,” Grote said.
“The attacker was known to security forces . There was information that he had been radicalised,” he said.
Police investigators work at the crime scene after a knife attack in a supermarket in Hamburg, Germany, July 28, 2017.Morris Mac Matzen
“As far as we know .. . there were no grounds to assess him as an immediate danger .
He was a suspected Islamist and was recorded as such in the appropriate systems, not as a jihadist but as an Islamist.”
Prosecutors said the attacker pulled a 20-centimetre knife from a shelf at the supermarket and stabbed three people inside and four outside before passers-by threw chairs and other objects at him, allowing police to arrest him.
A 50-year-old man died of his injuries . None of the other six people injured in the attack is in a life-threatening condition.
Chancellor Angela Merkel is seeking a fourth term in office in September . Her decision in 2015 to open Germany’s doors to more than one million migrants has sparked a debate about the need to spend more on policing and security.
Tunisian asylum seeker Anis Amri, who could not be deported because he lacked identification documents, carried out his attack at a Christmas market in Berlin in December after security agencies stopped monitoring him because they could not prove suspicions that he was planning to purchase weapons.
Reporting by Frank Witte in Hamburg; Writing by Joseph Nasr in Berlin; Editing by Andrew Bolton
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U.S . Secretary of State Rex Tillerson | Alex Wong/Getty Images
US national security officials worked on the language in between meetings in a fast-moving effort to send Syria a message.
6/28/17, 5:03 AM CET
President Donald Trump s blunt, public warning to the Syrian regime late Monday night was cobbled together in a series of hurried discussions, squeezed in between meetings with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and kept among a small, tight circle of top officials. Defense Secretary James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson both arrived at the White House late Monday afternoon, ahead of the Rose Garden ceremony at which Trump and Modi each read a prepared statement . Upon the Cabinet members arrival, according to a senior defense official, they were informed of Trump s plan to issue a public warning to Syrian President Bashar Assad, based on new intelligence the Syrian regime3 was preparing another chemical weapons attack on its own people. National security adviser H.R .
McMaster, who also was at the White House for meetings, had already been briefed and had weighed in on the plan, administration sources said. But no stand-alone principals meeting followed to discuss the intelligence, which Trump received Monday morning, according to two senior administration officials. Rather, over the course of the day, officials said, McMaster, Mattis, Tillerson and a few other top officials had the opportunity to work the language of the statement, in between meetings with Modi . None of them expressed any hesitation or disagreement about the decision to issue a public warning, according to one of the senior administration officials.
But a Defense Department official acknowledged that the events were fast-moving and that there were minimal deliberations about the bold move and that only a limited number of top military officials were aware of the new intelligence and planned response. The episode marked another example of ongoing frustration between administration rank-and-file and leadership, which this time could carry serious consequences if the backbiting appears to weaken the U.S . government s resolve in turning up the pressure on Assad.
It hurts American credibility, said Ilan Goldenberg, a former State Department official who served under Secretary of State John Kerry . When the Syrian regime sees a report that government officials have no idea, the message to them is that these guys don t have their act together . And if nobody at State knows, it hurts your ability to follow up and have a diplomatic game plan.
But one former Obama administration official shrugged off the issues of communication between the White House and lower-level agency officials.
There s a broader issue here of effective coordination and communication sometimes the president contradicts his own people, Tom Donilon, President Barack Obama s former national security adviser, said in an interview . But I don t think that s the most important issue here . If, in fact, the United States has evidence that they re preparing a chemical attack, laying down a warning that you intend to follow through on is an appropriate thing to do. The careful language of the 87-word statement which was drafted by the afternoon but not released until close to 10 p.m . was cleared by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the Central Intelligence Agency, the State Department and the Defense Department before it was blasted out from the press secretary s office.
On Tuesday, the White House insisted that military and State Department officials were not blindsided by the statement, which warned Assad that if he launches another chemical weapons attack, he and his military will pay a heavy price.
In response to several inquiries regarding the Syria statement issued last night, we want to clarify that all relevant agencies including State, DoD, CIA and ODNI were involved in the process from the beginning, the White House said in a statement released Tuesday morning . Anonymous leaks to the contrary are false. Multiple administration officials said people surprised by the statement were simply not senior enough to be clued in and some said they were frustrated that a bold move by Trump, which they believed could save lives, was overshadowed by a side story about leaks and internal disagreements.
The story seems to be about whether or not a public affairs officer on a regional desk at the State Department was notified in what they would consider to be a timely manner, vented a third White House official . If Tillerson knew and some desk officer in the Middle East section didn t know, they need to take that up with Tillerson . It s not their right to know . It s his prerogative if he wants to share the information.
The move, and the frustration were reflective of the Trump administration s approach of making key decisions within a close, inner circle unlike the deliberative, and sometimes paralyzingly inclusive, decision making that defined Obama s process. Despite the confusion and complaints over who was looped in and when, foreign policy experts lauded Trump s choice to make a public statement rather than to try to pressure the Syrian regime through diplomatic back channels. The Trump administration realizes they re being dragged into a very dangerous situation, said Jim Jeffrey, a former U.S .
ambassador to Turkey and Iraq and deputy national security adviser for President George W . Bush . He said the U.S . approach to Assad so far had been a bunch of tit for tats that seemed to have no long-term impact.
The benefit of a public statement is they re now on record as saying, this shall not happen, Jeffrey added . There was a conscious decision made by the people who realize whatever we want to do in the Middle East, we re going to look like fools if they do this again, and we blow up a few more airplanes . We have to react very strongly to them. Trump s own seeming lack of interest in the issue, though, could also diminish the message s effect on Assad.
Instead of using the megaphone of his Twitter feed to amplify the White House statement, marked by his press office as urgent, Trump took to Twitter minutes after its release to harp on one of his personal obsessions . From @FoxNews Bombshell: In 2016, Obama dismissed idea that anyone could rig an American election . Check out his statement Witch Hunt ! the president tweeted.
He s very undisciplined, said Jeffrey . He does this all the time .
That s a separate problem .
But what s clear is that in the end, he goes along with what his top advisers tell him.
Bryan Bender contributed to this report.