An explosion at a residential building in Germany that left nine first responders seriously injured appears to have been a planned attack carried out by a wanted man in connection with an unpaid fine, officials said on Friday.
Police and firefighters went to the building in the western town of Ratingen on Thursday after receiving a call about a helpless person inside a top-floor apartment.
What started out as a routine operation turned into an inferno when a man opened the apartment door and threw a burning object that exploded in a ball of fire, seriously injuring rescuers.
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“We are deeply shocked,” said Thomas Hendele, who heads the county administration in Mettmann, of which Ratingen is a part. “We are angry. Angered by this act, for which there is no justification.”
A special operations unit detained a 57-year-old German man as a suspect hours later.
Investigations showed the man had stored flammable liquids in the building, indicating he had prepared for the attack, police said.
Of the nine people who suffered serious injuries, two police officers and three firefighters were fighting for their lives with burns over large parts of their bodies, Hendele said.
“We cannot be sure if they will survive this battle,” he said.
Twenty-two police officers also suffered minor injuries in the incident.
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Officers found a body inside the apartment believed to be the suspect’s mother, investigator Heike Schultz said. The woman appeared to have been dead for several weeks.
An elderly man was also found dead in another part of the building. Authorities are investigating the circumstances of his death; German media reported that he may have died after not receiving care due to the ongoing police operation in the building.
Schultz said there were indications that the suspect subscribed to conspiracy theories about the coronavirus pandemic.
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“It is still unclear whether this was the reason,” he added.
A police officer tried to issue an arrest warrant for the man last week over an unpaid fine, but was unsuccessful, officials said. Thursday’s raid was not related to that warrant, police said.
Laura Neumann of the Duesseldorf prosecutor’s office said the man was being held on nine counts of attempted murder while the investigation continued.