A chilling incident in which a young boy and his mother were pushed in front of a high-speed train by an Eritrean man has sent shock waves across Germany and seemingly rekindled anti-migrant sentiment.
The tragedy took place on one of the platforms of the central railway terminal in the German city of Frankfurt – the nation’s second busiest railway hub. An eight-year-old boy and his mother were waiting for a train when they were suddenly attacked by a 40-year-old Eritrean. The assailant grabbed the woman and the child and threw them on the rail tracks right as the high-speed intercity express (ICE) was pulling into the station.
The 40-year-old woman managed to escape near-certain death as she made it to the pathway between two tracks. She tried to reach out to her son when the train ran over him, a witness told German media. The boy died at the scene.
The terrible scene left everyone at the station shaken. The ambulances that arrived shortly had to hospitalize some who were suffering from shock. The boy’s mother was also hospitalized, though there has been no information on her condition.
The perpetrator also tried to force another person onto the railway tracks but his third would-be victim escaped. The attacker then attempted to flee the scene but was pursued by a group of passengers and eventually detained by police outside the terminal.
The motive of the attack remains unclear. Police say the suspect deliberately assaulted the woman and the boy, and they are treating the incident as a homicide. The assailant had no personal connections to his victims, and little is known about him besides his Eritrean citizenship. According to some reports, he moved to Switzerland in 2006, and has lived there since.
The incident appalled the nation, as people turned to social media to express their shock and grief over the tragedy. Interior Minister Horst Seehofer interrupted his vacation and called an emergency meeting with security officials.
Seehofer said he was “deeply upset” by the attack and vowed that justice would be served “to the full extent of the law.”
While Germany is united in sorrow over the child’s death, the incident also appeared to reignite the simmering tensions over immigration that have gripped the nation ever since Chancellor Angela Merkel opened Germany’s borders for hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers and migrants at the height of the 2015 refugee crisis.
While most people online expressed their condolences to the boy’s family, some also blamed Merkel for what happened. Others vented their frustration over what they see as leniency towards foreign criminals, saying the suspect will likely be declared “traumatized” and eventually “acquitted.”
Politicians from the right-wing Alternative for Germany party also linked the incident to faulty immigration policies. The party’s parliamentary faction chief, Alice Weidel, denounced the attack as an “unprecedented act of cruelty.”
“What else has to happen?” she asked, while calling on the authorities to “finally protect the citizens of our country instead of [promoting] the limitless welcome culture.”
As the public anxiety grew, Seehofer had to call for calm. The interior minister said that “some parts of the public” already formed an opinion on the matter and said that any conclusions could be made only after “all the details are cleared.”
Merkel has not yet issued any statements on the matter.
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