May 27, 2006

Man stabs 28 after opening of Berlin train station

By Erik Kirschbaum and Claudia Kade

BERLIN (Reuters) - A knife-wielding German teenager stabbed
in a drunken frenzy at people leaving a ceremony to dedicate
Berlin's new central rail station just before midnight on
Friday and injured 28 before he was stopped.

Police said on Saturday six of those injured in the
10-minute long attack on a crowded street in the center of
Berlin were in serious condition but a victim initially on the
critical list had improved.

The attack came as a shock to Germany less than two weeks
before the World Cup soccer tournament opens and cast a shadow
over the fireworks and celebrations to open the new station
that some 500,000 people watched.

One of the first victims was HIV positive, police said,
adding it could not be ruled out as a result that those stabbed
after that person could also become infected.

"It was a horrible act," said Chancellor Angela Merkel, who
had already left the station's gala ceremony. "It's good to
know that the Berlin police caught the assailant so quickly."

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 student 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 and was under the influence of alcohol. Police
had noted him in a drunken state earlier outside the station.

"I've never experienced a crime like this in the seven
years that I've been in this job," said Ehrhart Koerting,
Berlin's interior minister in charge of the German capital's
police department, at a news conference on Saturday.

"This sort of attack does not usually happen in Berlin or
in Germany," he added, noting the youth was neither from a
broken or troubled family. "It's horrifying to see how he
developed. We need to think about violence in computer games
and films."


The attack occurred a few hundred meters from the showpiece
rail station where Merkel and Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit had
given speeches only hours before. A huge crowd had gathered
outside the station to watch a concert and fireworks show.

As tens of thousands streamed away from the glass-covered,
five-storey "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.

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

The bloodbath took place along a long stretch of crowded
sidewalks in the government quarter between the Reichstag
parliament building and Charite hospital -- which probably
saved the lives of some of the more seriously wounded.

Because one victim had the deadly HIV virus that causes
AIDS, which can be spread via blood, police urged all those
injured and released, as well as rescue workers who assisted
the wounded, to report to authorities for urgent blood tests.

The teenager was quickly seized after witnesses pointed him
out to security officials. Police said there were 60 witnesses.
State prosecutors said he faced attempted murder charges.

Police said he knifed most of the people in the back and
buttocks although some suffered chest and stomach wounds.

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