Terror motive not ruled out in Cologne hostage taking

German police say man who hurled a firebomb and then took a woman hostage in Cologne may have had a "terrorist" motive.

Elad Benari ,

Scene of Cologne hostage taking incident
Scene of Cologne hostage taking incident

German police are not ruling out the possibility that a man who hurled a firebomb and then took a woman hostage at a major German railway station on Monday acted with a "terrorist" motive, AFP reported.

Police said they found a passport issued to a 55-year-old Syrian man at the scene, and that the suspect had claimed to be a member of the Islamic State (ISIS) jihadist group.

"The investigation is considering all possibilities and we are not ruling out terrorism," Cologne deputy police chief Miriam Brauns told a news conference.

Heavily armed police commandos using stun grenades had shot the man when they stormed the scene, freeing the female hostage who suffered minor injuries. Two other people were injured and the attacker was badly wounded with multiple shots.

The man sparked panic when he entered a McDonald's restaurant inside the station and hurled a firebomb, leaving a 14-year-old girl with burns.

As the sprinkler system activated and water rained down in the fast-food restaurant, the man entered an adjacent pharmacy and took another woman hostage, whom he also threatened to burn in the ensuing drama, police said.

Police negotiated with him in a bid to defuse the tense situation and ascertain his motive, then stormed the pharmacy around 3:00 p.m. local time.

The man was holding a pistol - said to be either a replica or real, when commandos stormed the site, and he was also in possession of a flammable liquid and camping gas containers.

Police said they could not yet positively identify the hostage taker, who was undergoing surgery, but believed he was a 55-year-old Syrian migrant.

Syrian identity documents had been found in the pharmacy for a man who had been issued a residency permit in Germany valid until 2021.

The man identified in the document was known to police for previous offences including theft and illegal drugs possession, but Klaus-Stephan Becker, head of Cologne criminal police, also said that "it could be a foiled terrorist attack".

The man had carried a suitcase and bag, which he left in the restaurant, and had also demanded "the release of a Tunisian woman", said police commander Klaus Rueschenschmidt, without providing further details.

Germany has been on a high level of alert due to a series of terrorist attacks in the country in recent years.

In one attack, a 17-year-old Afghani with an axe attacked passengers on a train in Wurzburg before being shot dead by security forces.

In a second incident, an attacker set off a bomb in a restaurant in Ansbach, killing himself and wounding 12 others.

The worst such attack took place in December of 2016, when Tunisian terrorist Anis Amri killed 12 people and injured dozens more when he drove a truck into a Christmas market in Berlin.

Last June, German authorities arrested a Tunisian man on suspicion of trying to build a biological weapon using the deadly poison ricin.