‘I’ll blow you up’: Manhunt in Bremen after ‘pro-ISIS psycho’ escapes ward shouting threats

© Reuters
German police have arrested a 19-year-old Algerian asylum seeker who fled a psychiatric hospital after threatening to blow up people. A shopping mall in Bremen was evacuated during the manhunt. Police have tried to downplay the man’s links to Islamists.

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Although police confirmed that the man had previously expressed admiration for the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) terror group, hailing the recent shooting attack at a Munich shopping center that left 10 people dead, police refused to call the hunt an anti-terror raid.

“One can speak of rather an extensive operation,” Bremen’s police spokeswoman said, adding that “there is no evidence that he had connections to the IS or concrete attack plans,” as cited by Die Welt.

However, the spokeswoman admitted that, due to the nature of the beliefs allegedly harbored by the suspect, police had to “proceed from the assumption that the missing person is dangerous.”

Before his escape, the man was being treated in a psychiatric hospital located in the city of Bassum, some 40 kilometers from Bremen. He had been admitted to the ward last Sunday after being transferred from custody upon consultations with a doctor and his legal adviser. He was being held on charges of trespassing and theft and said to have repeatedly harmed himself while in prison. The man also has a history with drugs.

The Algerian escaped the hospital premises via an emergency exit early on Wednesday after he broke free from a nurse. When the nurse attempted to stop him, he shouted: “I’ll blow you up.”

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Police then received a tip from a waiter about a suspicious looking man in Bremen’s Weserpark mall. As the description matched that of the missing psychiatric patient, a covert operation to catch the man without disturbing the operation of the mall was reportedly launched. 

However, after almost three hours of fruitless search, the police decided to evacuate the center, citing a “technical problem” so as not to cause panic among the visitors. The extensive search that followed spanned several hours as the officers tried to locate the man on the mall’s vast area of 70,000 square meters. Their efforts were in vain, however. Special forces were also engaged in the raid, as police suspected the man could have left “a dangerous object” somewhere on the premises, police spokesman Nils Matthiesen reported, as cited by Weser Kurier.

Only later that night did local police finally manage to detain the man in a joint effort with the state’s police. He was apprehended at the Bremen railway station.

This latest incident comes as Germany is still reeling from a spate of deadly terror attacks that rocked the country last week.

Last Friday, an 18-year-old Iranian-German teenager who was said to be suffering from a psychiatric disorder killed nine people and injured 35 at the Olympic shopping center in Munich.

On Sunday, a 27-year-old Syrian asylum seeker identified as Mohammad D, who had been denied refugee status in Germany twice, planted a bomb outside a bar in Ansbach. The ensuing explosion killed one person and injured 15. Police found evidence on his phone indicating that he had pledged allegiance to Islamic State’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

That same day, a 21-year-old Syrian refugee killed a woman and injured five other people with a meat cleaver in an attack that took place in Reutlingen. Police did not find any indications of an Islamist motive in that assault and believe the assailant acted out of jealousy. The suspect was apprehended by police after he was run over by a car and he is now slated to undergo questioning.

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Earlier in the day, a police force consisting of some 400 officers raided a mosque in Lower Saxony. The premises of the “German-speaking Islam Circle Hildesheim” (DIK) and the apartments of its eight board members were searched. The movement’s leaders are suspected of preaching “hatred toward infidels” during the prayers, the state’s interior minister, Boris Pistorius, said.

 “After months of preparation we have taken an important step with the searches conducted today toward a ban on the group,” he added.