A man threw a Molotov cocktail into a crowded McDonald’s restaurant before taking a woman hostage in the German city of Cologne's main railway station in what police said may have been a failed terror attack.
A 14-year-old girl suffered burns to her legs when the man claiming to be a member of Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Isil) attacked the restaurant. Police said the could not rule out terrorism.
He then took a second woman hostage in a pharmacy inside the station complex while onlookers fled. Witnesses described him as shouting that he was acting for Isil.
Police special forces stormed the station and freed the hostage, who suffered moderate injuries according to emergency services.
The suspect was shot in the stomach by police marksmen and was said to be in critical condition last night (MON).
The residence document of a 55-year-old Syrian who has been living in Cologne since 2016 was recovered from the scene, but police said it was not clear if it belonged to the suspect. The owner of the residence card has a criminal record for theft.
The incident began at around 12.45pm local time (11.45pm BST) when the suspect threw a Molotov cocktail into the station’s McDonald’s outlet. A 14-year-old girl was injured but managed to escape.
“It was indescribable, terrible to look at,” a witness who saw the teenager’s injuries told the local Express newspaper. The girl was rushed to hospital and was said to be in stable condition last night (MON).
Armed with a handgun, the suspect then took another woman hostage in the station pharmacy. Loudspeaker announcements ordered the public to leave the station by the nearest exit and police sealed the complex off.
A two-hour stand-off followed as nervous passengers waited on the nearby steps of Cologne cathedral, many of them clutching their luggage. All trains to and from the station, one of the busiest in Germany, were cancelled.
The suspect made various “political demands”, including the release of a Tunisian woman from prison, according to police. He also demanded safe passage out of the station.
He was known to police for offences including theft and fraud, Cologne's deputy police chief Miriam Brauns said.
"We also do not rule out a terrorist attack," Ms Brauns said.
Police were unable to determine if the handgun he was carrying was genuine from a distance, and the decision was made to storm the station, a spokesman said. A police marksman shot the suspect in the stomach to disable him.
Inquiries were still ongoing last night, and it is not yet clear if the handgun the suspect used was genuine, police said.
Police made the decision to storm the station when the suspect threatened to set light to the hostage. He had taped gas cartridges to her body and poured fuel over her. Police were unable to determine if the handgun he was carrying was genuine, so a police marksman shot the suspect in the stomach to disable him.