Swiss train attack: 6 passengers, including 1 child, suffer burn, knife wounds
UPDATE: A 34-year-old woman died of her wounds on Sunday, police said. Three more people, including a 6-year-old, remain in hospital. Authorities say there is no evidence to date that this was a terrorist or politically motivated attack; the suspect has no criminal record.
"According to current information a 27-year-old Swiss man poured out a flammable liquid. He was also armed with at least one knife. The liquid caught fire," St. Gallen cantonal police said in a statement.
The assailant was also among the seven people injured, police say. Six passengers "have been hospitalized with knife and burn injuries."
One of the injured is in critical condition, police spokesperson Hanspeter Krüsi told the Tagesanzeiger.
“At least one child is among those wounded,” St. Gallen police is quoted as saying by St. Galler’s Tagblatt newspaper. Law enforcers added that the child in question is only six years old.
The attack happened at 2:20 a.m. local time as the train was traveling between the towns of Buchs and Sennwald, located in northeast Switzerland. According to Radio FM1, the perpetrator spilled the flammable liquid on a female passenger and then set it on fire.
"Apart from a large presence of St. Gallen canton police, fire brigades, three helicopters and two emergency doctors,” have been dispatched to the site of the attack, police said.
Authorities have opened a criminal investigation into the case and are looking into possible motives for the assault. Law enforcers have also searched the house of the attacker, who does not appear to be a resident of the St. Galen canton. No further details about the operation have been disclosed.
“We do not know where the man entered the train and whether he knew some of the passengers,” Krüsi said. Law enforcers were not able to talk to the train driver in the immediate aftermath of the assault since the person “was in shock and could not provide any details.”
“A crime of passion” is one of the possibilities the Swiss police is currently investigating, Reuters reports. The outlet adds that, according to the police spokesperson, “a terrorism background still seems very, very far-fetched.”
“We can neither exclude, nor confirm, whether this act has a terrorist motive,” Bruno Metzger, a police spokesman, told St. Galler Tagblatts.
According to eyewitness accounts, the man attempted suicide after the attack, and is now reported to be in critical condition.
However, Ricardo Baretzky, president of the European Centre for Information Policy and Security, told RT that Europe is facing a changing threat from terrorism.
“Any attack on people of this nature is a form of terror attack, whether they belong to a fundamental group or not, that is a fundamental point,” Baretzky said. He added that unless governments understand that this is a new type of terrorism, “they will fail.”
A similar assault was committed by an asylum seeker believed to be from Afghanistan or Pakistan who injured five fellow passengers while travelling on a train near the German town of Wurzburg on July 18. The perpetrator had earlier pledged allegiance to Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL).
After that attack, another refugee assaulted and killed a woman with a machete in the city of Reutlingen. In addition, on July 24 a Syrian refugee set off a suicide bomb at a festival in the city of Ansbach, injuring 15 people. That attacker had also pledged allegiance to IS.
However, the deadliest assault over the past months took place near the Olympia shopping mall in Munich on July 22, when a German-Iranian killer went on a rampage, killing nine people and injuring over 30 others. That perpetrator was shot dead by police.