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‘No indication’ of terrorism in lethal Swiss train attack – ‘The question of motive remains’

SALEZ: The train stands near the station after a man attacked other passengers aboard the train. — AP
SALEZ: The train stands near the station after a man attacked other passengers aboard the train. — AP

GENEVA: Swiss police said yesterday there was no indication a stabbing and fire attack on a passenger train was an act of terror, as a female victim and the assailant died of their injuries. Five other people were hurt in Saturday’s assault in eastern Switzerland, including a six-year-old girl who was seriously injured. “The question of motive remains,” police in the Saint Gallen region said in a statement. “To date there is no indication this was a terrorist or politically-motivated act.”

While no motives have been ruled out, the police statement should calm some of the speculation circulating since Saturday’s attack, which followed several violent, often deadly assaults in Europe, many of which were claimed by the Islamic State group. “Terrorism is not our main theory,” police spokesman Bruno Metzger told AFP, adding that “other motives” figured far higher, although he would not say what they were. A 27-year-old Swiss national used flammable liquid to start a fire on a moving train in eastern Switzerland at about 2:20 pm before stabbing passengers.

The incident took place on the line between Buchs and Sennwald near Salez station, not far from the eastern border with Liechtenstein and Austria. Dozens of people were on the train at the time, police said. Pictures published by Swiss media yesterday showed burned-out seats by a blackened window, the seats covered with ash and the upholstery burnt to a crisp, while on the platform was a pool of blood.

Acted alone

Police said images of the attack had been caught on surveillance footage, allowing them to determine that the man had acted alone. The footage, which was not immediately made public, showed the man, who was carrying a knife, pouring out flammable liquid and setting it alight, police said. A 34-year-old woman and the assailant died in hospital yesterday, police said. The injured, who included two men aged 17 and 50, two women aged 17 and 43 and a six-year-old girl, suffered burns and stab wounds. One of the women and the child were in serious condition, police said.

The woman who died had been doused with a large amount of the flammable liquid, leading to speculation she might have been the target. But Metzger said he could not confirm that, and another police spokesman Hanspeter Kruesi told AFP it did not appear the attack was directed at a single person. He said it was unclear if the attacker, who did not have a criminal record, knew any of the victims.

Pulled out burning attacker

One of those injured was not a passenger, but a man on the platform at Salez station, where the train stopped when the smoke detector went off. He was hurt after rushing in to pull the attacker-who was on fire-from the train, police said. “His intervention probably prevented worse,” Kruesi told the Blick daily. Police did not provide any details on the identities or nationalities of the victims.

They had not been able question the attacker before his death but have searched his home, located in a canton neighboring Saint Gallen. Some 90 rescue workers took part in Saturday’s operation, including police, firefighters, ambulances and three rescue helicopters, police said. Saint Gallen prosecutors have opened a criminal investigation into the attack and sealed off the affected carriage, which is being examined by forensics teams. – AFP

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