A suspected Islamist terrorist who injured six people by crashing into bikers in Berlin posted an image of himself online with the car used in the attack just hours earlier.
Sarmad A, 30, uploaded the image to Facebook on Tuesday alongside a message in which he spoke about Palestine, wrote ‘Allahu Akbar’ – God is great – in Arabic, and used the word for ‘martyr’.
Two hours later the same car was used to crash into three bikers along the A100 motorway in Berlin, leaving two seriously hurt and a third in critical condition.
Three more people were slightly injured after one of the bikes slammed into a car they were riding in.
After a bike got trapped underneath his car, Sarmad is thought to have got out, shouted ‘Allahu Akbar’ and then unrolled a prayer mat in the middle of the road. Prosecutors say he had a kitchen knife with him as he carried out the motorway rampage.
He is also thought to have placed an old ammunition box on top of the car, claiming it was a bomb, while shouting: ‘Nobody come any closer or you will all die.’
A passing traffic officer of Arabic descent manged to talk to Sarmad, pull him away from the car and arrest him, Tagesspiegel reported.
Prosecutors say he was ‘hunting for motorcycles’, crashing into two of them and a scooter driver.
Sarmad is thought to be a refugee who is living at a shelter in Berlin and was known to police due to past extremist behaviour and mental health issues.
In one incident he attacked officers before unrolling a prayer mat in echoes of Tuesday night’s crashes.
In 2018 he was kicked out of a home where he was staying and charged with assault, and ended up in a mental health facility. He was released a short time later.
Police believe Sarmad, who was born in Baghdad in 1990, may have been radicalised in the refugee shelter by a known extremist with ISIS sympathies.
However, they say there is no evidence that Sarmad himself was a member of a terrorist organisation.
It is not known when Sarmad came to Germany, but he appears to have been in Finland until at least 2016.
After arriving in Germany he spent some time in refugee accommodation, before moving into an apartment in the city in 2019.
Police are thought to have been called to that apartment two weeks ago, though the reason for the call is not clear.
‘The fact that the suspect was possibly suffering from psychological problems does not make this issue any easier,’ Berlin interior minister Andreas Geisel said.
‘If personal problems mix with religiously loaded ideas, this can lead to uncontrollable acts – yesterday’s events have shown in a very painful way how vulnerable our society is.’
Sarmad is now thought to be facing three counts of attempted murder.
Among the victims is a firefighter who is in critical condition and may not survive his injuries, sources told German media.
Another two of the victims were riding motorbikes, while three people inside a car were hurt after one of the bikers was thrown into their vehicle.
All of the crashes happened in the south west of Berlin, where motorways were still closed on Wednesday morning.
One motorcyclist was run over at Detmolder Strasse, at a junction with the A100 motorway, according to Bild.
A scooter driver was then hit at Innsbrucker Platz, around a mile along the same motorway heading east, and had to be revived by paramedics.
Two more motorbike riders were then struck at Alboinstrasse, another a mile along the same motorway.
The car used in the attacks was then pictured with a motorbike pinned under the front bumper at Alboinstrasse.
The incident led to long traffic jams Tuesday evening.
Some 300 people were stuck on the highway for hours and were getting support from the German Red Cross, the Berlin fire department tweeted Tuesday night.
They were led away from their cars after Sarmad had been arrested.
People with ties to Islamic extremism have committed several violent attacks in Germany in recent years.
The worst was a ramming attack at a Berlin Christmas market in December 2016 that killed 12. The Tunisian attacker, a failed asylum seeker, was a supporter of ISIS.
More recently, an Islamist and his wife were convicted of planning a biological bomb attack in Germany in 2018 with the deadly poison ricin.
The pair had ordered castor seeds, explosives and metal ball bearings on the internet to build the toxic bomb.
The man was in March sentenced to 10 years in prison while his wife received an eight-year sentence in June.
Since 2013, the number of Islamists considered dangerous in Germany has increased fivefold to 680, according to security services.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has often been accused, particularly by the far right, of having contributed to the Islamist threat by opening the country’s borders to hundreds of thousands of migrants in 2015.