An ambulance is seen at the scene of an explosion in Ansbach, Germany where a Syrian asylum applicant blew himself up outside a rock festival, wounding 12. (Daniel Karmann/EPA)
BERLIN — A rejected Syrian asylum seeker blew himself up near the entrance of a Bavarian music festival late Sunday, killing himself and wounding 12 others in the latest attack to rock Europe.
The incident sparked late night mayhem in Ansbach, a southern German town of 40,000 that hosts a U.S. military base. Authorities quickly evacuated 2,500 people from the rock festival.
The assailant, a 27-year-old Syrian whose request for asylum had been rejected, detonated an explosive device in his backpack around 10:10 p.m. after he was refused entry to the festival.
The device had been rigged with metal projectiles normally used in woodworking, according to Elke Schönwald, a spokeswoman for the Nürnberg police, which were handling the case.
The explosion went off near a wine bar toward the entrance of the music festival, with three of 12 injured in serious condition. Eye witnessed described a scene of chaos and fear that has become all too familiar in Germany and neighboring countries following a string of deadly attacks.
“We just went outside briefly because we wanted to have an ice cream and a drink and shortly after we heard a muffled bang,” Christian Hartdeck told reporters on the scene. “We were all petrified. A few people came running towards us who had been near the café … a few people had been hit by tiles that had fallen off a roof.”
Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann — a strong critic of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s initial decision to welcome refugees to Germany — told reporters that in his view the incident was “an Islamist suicide attack.” But police officials were more cautious, saying the assailant’s motive remained unclear.
Although authorities were not ruling out Islamist terrorism, the 27-year old, whose name was not released, had been rejected for asylum in Germany and was living in the country under a precarious legal status. Officials said he had twice attempted suicide, and had also been detained for drug possession and other minor offenses.
The incident came only two days after a troubled Iranian-German teenager went on a shooting rampage in a Munich shopping mall, leaving 10 people dead, including himself.
On Sunday, another Syrian asylum seeker was arrested in the town of Reutlingen, Baden-Wuerttemberg, after allegedly using a machete to kill a Polish woman she had apparently rejected his romantic advances.
On July 18, an asylum seeker from Afghanistan who had pledged allegiance to the Islamic Sate was shot dead after attacking and injuring five people on a train in Wuerzbug, also in southern Germany.
The Islamic State also claimed responsibility for the July 14 attack in Nice, France, when a 31-year-old Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel used a cargo truck to kill 84 people and wound dozens more.