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Suicide Bomber in Ansbach, Germany, Pledged Loyalty to ISIS, Officials Say

A 27-year-old Syrian who blew himself up on Sunday evening outside a wine bar in southern Germany, wounding 15 people, had recorded a cellphone video in which he professed loyalty to the Islamic State, officials said Monday.

The man, who entered Germany in 2014 but was denied asylum, detonated a backpack around 10 p.m. on Sunday, near the entrance to an open-air music festival that was attended by about 2,000 people. Of the wounded, four had grave injuries.

It was the second attack in Germany in one week linked to the Islamic State: On July 18, in Würzburg, a 17-year-old who had registered as an Afghan refugee wielded an ax and wounded four passengers on a train and a woman walking her dog before police officers fatally shot him.

The attacks have profoundly disturbed a country that has taken pride in its ability to integrate migrants — enabled in part by its robust economy — and by its commitment to tolerance and openness.

Even before the attack in Ansbach, two other violent assaults — seemingly unrelated to the Islamic State — dominated the news: On Friday, an 18-year-old who had been treated for psychiatric problems shot nine people to death in Munich before killing himself, and earlier on Sunday, a 21-year-old Syrian refugee killed a woman with a machete in Reutlingen, in the southwestern state of Baden-Württemberg.

On Monday afternoon, the Islamic State claimed responsibility for the Ansbach attack via its Amaq News Agency, calling the bomber a "soldier" who had retaliated against the United States-led coalition fighting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. The language was nearly identical to that used by the Islamic State after the attacks in Würzburg, in Nice, France, and in other places where the group has directed or inspired attacks.

Shortly before the Islamic State's statement, Joachim Herrmann, the interior minister of the state of Bavaria, said the attacker, speaking in Arabic, had recorded a cellphone video swearing allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the Islamic State's leader.

The video threatened "revenge for the killing of Muslims," Mr. Herrmann said at a news conference in Nuremberg.

While Germany has provided logistics, equipment and reconnaissance support to the coalition fighting the Islamic State, it is not involved in combat missions in Iraq or Syria, and unlike France and Belgium, it has not been seen in recent years as fertile ground for jihadist radicalization.

The Islamic State's exhortation for Muslims to attack civilians in countries participating in the United States-led coalition has resonated with a number of people prone to mental illness, like the attacker in Nice. In Berlin on Monday, Germany's interior minister, Thomas de Maizière, cautioned that "in the Ansbach incident, neither a link to international Islamic State terrorism nor a mental disorder of the perpetrator can be ruled out." He added, "It could be a combination of both."

The fact that three of the four attacks took place in Bavaria, the state at the front lines of the flow of migrants into Germany, resonated deeply.

"Bavaria is experiencing days of terror," the state's governor, Horst Seehofer, wrote on Facebook. "Our thoughts are with those injured by the insidious and brutal bombing in Ansbach."

Winfried Bausback, the justice minister of Bavaria, wrote on Facebook that the attacks in Würzburg and Ansbach "show that Islamic terror has reached Germany." He added, "Our democratic and liberal constitutional state has to adapt to this," and he urged greater resources for the police and border officers.

Guido Steinberg, a terrorism expert at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, said "the uncontrolled influx of refugees" had contributed to "an enormous deterioration of the security situation." He said that people posing as refugees had carried out terrorist attacks and that refugees were also susceptible to terrorist propaganda and recruitment. "What I do not understand at all is why the federal government does not admit this," he said.

The bomber stayed in Bulgaria from late 2013 until the middle of 2014, Georgi Kostov, an official at the Bulgarian Interior Ministry, told journalists in Sofia.

In December 2013, he was granted a status that allowed him to travel freely within the European Union, if he had the necessary documents.

The man entered Germany in June 2014, officials in Berlin said, but in September of that year, German authorities asked Bulgaria to take him back because he did not qualify for asylum. Bulgaria resisted, citing a European Union asylum protocol known as the Dublin regulation. Germany could have sent him back to Bulgaria under a separate agreement between the two countries, according to Petya Parvanova, who runs the refugee agency in Bulgaria. However, Germany never followed up, she said.

German officials offered a different account. Carda Seidel, the mayor of Ansbach, said the bomber had received two deportation orders, most recently on July 13, and Tobias Plate, an Interior Ministry spokesman, said the bomber had been notified of his impending deportation to Bulgaria. But he added, "I can't at this point tell you why the deportation has not been carried out."

Ralf Millsaps, 59, who is originally from Mooresville, N.C., and has lived in Ansbach since April, after he retired from the Army, said he was sitting on the terrace outside the wine bar on Sunday night when the attacker sat down nearby.

"The guy comes in, he's got long hair and earbuds," Mr. Millsaps said. "He's wearing a giant rucksack, not a day pack, a rucksack that was thick. He sits down at a table and doesn't take off the rucksack." The backpack smelled of fertilizer or diesel, he said. The man left, but returned 15 to 20 minutes later — and then the backpack exploded.

Mr. Millsaps — who said he had been treated for a shoulder injury and had given the clothes he was wearing to the police for testing — said he believed that the detonator went off, but not the full array of explosives in the backpack. "The size of his rucksack, it should have taken the side off the building," he said. "I wouldn't be here talking to you if the bomb had gone off." He added: "I know what I'm talking about. This ain't my first rodeo."

The bomber lived in Ansbach, a city of roughly 50,000 that is home to 644 refugees, in a former hotel that has been converted to house migrants. Mubariz Mahmood, 28, an asylum-seeker from Pakistan who lives in the building, identified the bomber as Mohammad Daleel, a name that appears on a directory outside the building.

Mr. Mahmood said he had spoken several times with Mr. Daleel and had never had any problems with him. "I am shocked," he said. "When I heard it was him, I was thinking: How could he do this?"

[Source: By Melissa Eddy, International New York Times, Ansbach, 25Jul16]

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small logoThis document has been published on 27Jul16 by the Equipo Nizkor and Derechos Human Rights. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.