Two Syrian refugees committed acts of terror in different Bavarian towns Sunday, July 24, the third and fourth violent attacks in Germany in less than a week. One Syrian, a 21-year old, used a machete to murder a pregnant woman in Reutingen near Stuttgart. He was arrested – but only after a motorist saw him attacking two more people and ran him down. Local police assured the populace that there was nothing more to fear since the attack arose from a private quarrel between the Syrian man and a female colleague at work.
This did not explain why the attacker went on to stab another two victims.
That night, in Ansbach, southwest of Nuremberg, a second Syrian refugee of 27 – denied asylum in Germany a year ago but allowed to stay – was refused entry to a three-day summer popular music festival when he aroused the suspicions of guards at the gate. They let him go without asking to search his rucksack. He then went straight to a nearby wine bar and detonated the device he was carrying, injuring 12 people, three of them seriously.
The Bavarian authorities initially attributed the explosion to a gas leak. But then the mayor’s office confirmed it was a deliberately detonated device. The 2,500 music fans were sent home and the event was canceled.
Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann first tried explaining that the Syrian blew himself up in protest at being turned away from the festival.
Only later, on Monday, did the minister tell reporters that he could not exclude the possibility of an Islamist-inspired attack. He said investigators would work tirelessly to investigate the attack and fully understand the man's motives.
But Hermann also said that the Syrian bomber had tried to commit suicide twice before and was confined to an institution. It was not clear, he said, if he had planned to kill only himself or "take others with him into death.” This suggested that the putative music lover was also a mental case, which sounded much like the snap diagnosis offered by German officials after the Munich mall mass-killer murdered nine people on Friday, July 22.
The first of the four attacks was carried out by a 17-year old refugee from Afghanistan exactly a week ago on July 18. Wielding an ax and a knife, he wounded eight people on a train near Wuerzbuerg, not far from Munich, before he was shot dead by police.
Although an ISIS flag was found in his room and the Islamic State claimed the Afghan axeman as “one of its soldiers,” the Bavarian interior minister said only, “There may be an Islamic background to this but that is far from clear at this point.”
But the Bavarian police have insisted that neither Sunday's machete attack nor Friday's shooting in Munich bore any sign of connections with Islamic State or other terrorist groups.
Some puzzling questions remain unanswered about the slaughter of nine people by the Iranian-German 18-year old Ali Sonboly at the Munich mall Friday – firstly, was he alone? After viewing aerial photos and maps of the scene at the Olympia Einkaufszentrum mall, many counterterrorism experts infer that he was not the only shooter.
They also find it hard to believe that a 9mmGlock pistol could have produced the scale and power of gunfire described by multiple witnesses.
The only motive officially ascribed to Sonboly was an obsession with mass murder and the claim that he too was receiving psychiatric treatment.
Connecting these attacks in a single week of violence links the German state of Bavaria to a triangle of terror (see attached map) along with the Nice, France atrocity on July 14, which left 84 dead, and the under-reported attempt by four Arab-speakers to kidnap a British Royal Air Force officer at the Marham air base in Norfolk on July 20.
They add up to 6 violent attacks in 12 days, averaging one terrorist episode every two days in Europe.
But Germany stands out as refusing to admit to a reign of terror, partly because of the fallout generated for Chancellor Angela Merkel’s open-door policy for masses of distressed refugees.
But the damage is not just political. German authorities recently admitted that while accepting a million refugees, 130,000 failed to register at the special reception centers and have dropped out of sight.
No one can tell how many terrorists are among them and what violence they are plotting. Instead of burying their heads in the sand, German security authorities need to hurry up and devise counter-measures in good time to head off the mounting threat.