May 27, 2006

Man stabs 26 after opening of Berlin train station

By Philipp Halstrick and Erik Kirschbaum

BERLIN (Reuters) - A knife-wielding German teenager
attacked people leaving a gala ceremony to dedicate Berlin's
new central rail station shortly before midnight on Friday,
injuring 26 before being arrested, police said.

"A crazy man ran down the street stabbing people
arbitrarily," a policeman at the scene told Reuters.

A police spokesman said on Saturday six of the injured were
in serious condition.

The attacker was a 16-year old German from Neukoelln, a
south Berlin district with a large immigrant population. Police
said they were still investigating the motives of the attack by
the youth who has a police record for assault.

They said they were unsure what was behind the violence but
ruled out a far-right link. They also said the teenager had
acted on his own.

The attack occurred a few hundred meters from the showpiece
rail station where Chancellor Angela Merkel and Berlin Mayor
Klaus Wowereit had given speeches only hours before.

Merkel and other dignitaries had left the ceremony before
the attack took place. A free concert and light show outside
the new station attracted more than a 100,000 people to the

As thousands streamed away from the glass-covered,
five-story "Hauptbahnhof" after the show, police said the young
man "ran amok" through the crowd on a street about three blocks
to the east of the station.

The attack took place along a long stretch of crowded
sidewalks in the government quarter between the Reichstag
parliament building and the Charite hospital.

The station, which sits near the no-man land where the
Berlin Wall once split the city in half, was opened by Merkel
in time for the World Cup in two weeks.

The stabbing, which follows a string of apparently
racially-motivated attacks on dark-skinned people in eastern
Germany, may fuel concerns about security at the month-long
soccer tournament.

The 700 million euro ($900 million) station, Europe's
largest, dwarfs Merkel's nearby Chancellery and the Reichstag.

"Berlin has celebrated a number of great days in the recent
past but I think today will go down as one of the most
special," Merkel said earlier in the evening, after arriving on
the first train to the station that left Leipzig just an hour

More than 1,100 trains and 300,000 passengers are expected
to pass through the station each day.