Fatal knife attack: RE 11223 brought death to Brokstedt. And the fact makes for new, old discussions

The day after, nothing is the same as it used to be.

Fatal knife attack: RE 11223 brought death to Brokstedt. And the fact makes for new, old discussions

The day after, nothing is the same as it used to be. In Brokstedt, a 2,000-inhabitant community in Schleswig-Holstein's no-man's-land, people normally live quietly, in the countryside. It is a place like there are a thousand times in Germany. In the center of an Edeka, an inn, a pharmacy. The Sparkasse has switched to a self-service branch. There are sports fields, an outdoor pool, a bit of handicrafts and a bit more agriculture, many individual houses. And a train station.

Hourly trains run here to Hamburg in the south and to Kiel in the north. Many in Brokstedt work in the two big cities. Regional express 11223 is scheduled to arrive on platform 2 at 2:54 p.m. on Wednesday afternoon. The red double-decker train brings death and horror to Brokstedt.

The day after, the whole country looks at the community in the district of Steinburg. Reporters from the television stations are standing at the train station and reporting what has happened here. what is known. And what is not known.

The regional train leaves Kiel Central Station at 2.25 p.m. in the direction of Hamburg. It leaves Neumünster at 2.45 p.m. By then at the latest, Ibrahim K. will also be on board, along with around 120 other people. It's almost 14 kilometers from there to Brokstedt. Somewhere along the way, Ibrahim K. grabs his knife and apparently stabs fellow passengers indiscriminately. A passenger later told the "Kieler Nachrichten" that panic broke out in the wagons. "I was scared of death," said another of the "Bild" newspaper. There must have been tumultuous scenes. "A very big mess," says a police spokeswoman matter-of-factly. While many travelers call 911, witnesses say others try to keep the attacker at bay. With suitcases, holdalls and anything else you can grab. It's a heroic story. They "probably prevented the perpetrator from committing worse things," said Schleswig-Holstein's Interior Minister Sabine Sütterlin-Waack (CDU) in the evening. After agonizingly long minutes, the train comes to a standstill in Brokstedt station. A few courageous people hold Ibrahim K. down until the first police officers finally arrive. The horror of regional express 11223 is over just after 3 p.m.

A large contingent of police and rescue workers rush to Brokstedt. They take care of the injured, there are at least seven of them, and have to realize: Two people did not survive the horror, they died from severe stab wounds. The day after it is clear: They were only 16 and 19 years old. A teenager and her three-year-older acquaintance, both from Schleswig-Holstein, were killed.

After the survivors have been treated and the injured attacker has been taken to a hospital, the investigators take over the station and train. They secure tracks in white protective suits. Yellow signs with black numbers stand for marking on the platform, dozens of witnesses are being questioned at the station and in a nearby restaurant. A bakery serves hot drinks. "A matter of course," says the saleswoman to a reporter from the DPA news agency.

The news of the deadly knife attack on the regional train quickly reached the state capital of Kiel, 40 kilometers away. In the state parliament on the Förde, the first day of the year is about the budget, among other things. Prime Minister Daniel Günther (CDU) is informed about the crime. "Schleswig-Holstein is mourning - it's a terrible day," he says, while his interior minister drives to Brokstedt. "For me it is clear that the horrible act is against all humanity," she says. On Thursday mourning flags are ordered across the country and the state parliament commemorates the dead.

Brokstedt has become another symbolic location for acts of violence that regularly shock Germany: knife attacks on completely unsuspecting people. Most recently, at the beginning of December, a 27-year-old in Illerkirchberg (Baden-Württemberg) suddenly attacked two young people with a knife on their way to school and killed one of them. In June 2021, a man stabbed three women and seriously injured others in the old town of Würzburg. Brokstedt, Illerkirchberg, Würzburg - three cases out of many that are similar but still different.

While there was also an Islamist background to the attack in Würzburg, but the court ultimately committed the attacker to a psychiatric ward because of a mental illness, the investigators are still groping in the dark about a motive in Illerkirchberg. In the case of Brokstedt's deadly attack, the public prosecutor's office has no indication of a terrorist background, and nothing is known about Ibrahim K.'s mental illness.

And yet the three and other cases in the past have one thing in common: they were committed by men with a history of flight and alleged violence who were already known to the police. This regularly leads to heated discussions about immigration policy.

This is no different in the Brokstedt case. Ibrahim K., 33 years old, came to Germany as a refugee according to consistent media reports (including "Spiegel", "Bild" newspaper). The stateless Palestinian received subsidiary protection in 2016. According to the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees, this is granted to people who are not entitled to either refugee protection or asylum, but who "are threatened with serious damage in their country of origin and they cannot claim the protection of their country of origin or do not want to claim it because of the threat". .

When Ibrahim K. was integrated, things apparently went wrong as a result. Most recently, he is said to have had no permanent residence, but has been in conflict with the law a number of times. There were also investigations into assault, property damage, shoplifting and sexual assault. According to "Spiegel", an apparently first prison sentence was made last year for a life-threatening knife attack in January, but it is not yet final. Therefore, K. was held in custody in Hamburg until January 19, 2023, before a judge released him. Only six days later he boarded the regional express from Hamburg to Kiel.

The debate about how to deal with people who don't follow the rules that apply here is there. Green co-head Omid Nouripour was one of the first to speak to "Markus Lanz" on ZDF on Wednesday evening. He says: "Of course we have to talk about deportations." However: Deporting a stateless person entitled to protection who has not yet been sentenced by a court of law is likely to be a difficult undertaking in a constitutional state. There are no easy discussions – and no easy solutions either.

Meanwhile, investigators in Schleswig-Holstein are doing everything they can to clear up Brokstedt's crime. Because one important question is still unanswered: Why all this? Ibrahim K. has since been released from the hospital and is scheduled to appear before the magistrate on Thursday. In the afternoon, there will be more information about the deadly knife attack in the regional express at a press conference by the authorities.

The red double-decker train will be driven to a Deutsche Bahn plant in Neumünster on Wednesday evening. Only there are the bodies of the two young victims carried out of the wagons. The Brokstedt volunteer fire brigade is approaching the platform. Using water from their hoses and scrubbers, they remove the visible remains from the floor. A lonely candle flickers in a bus shelter.

The day after that, trains run hourly to Hamburg and Kiel. Hardly anything is reminiscent of what happened not even 24 hours ago - and yet nothing is like it used to be in Brokstedt, which everyone now knows.

Police are still looking for witnesses to the crime and are asking them to call (04821) 6022002. A reference portal for uploading audio, video or photo files has also been activated: https://sh.zettelportal.de/

Sources: Police Department Itzehoe (1), Police Department Itzehoe (2), Police Department Itzehoe (3), Police Department Itzehoe (4), Local Transport Association Schleswig-Holstein, "Kieler Nachrichten" (paid content), "Spiegel" (paid content), "Image "-Newspaper (content subject to charge), Federal Office for Migration and Refugees, "Markus Lanz", ntv news agencies DPA and AFP