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article imageSwiss police hunt for chainsaw attacker

By AFP     Jul 24, 2017 in World

Swiss police were searching Monday for a man who went on a rampage while armed with a chainsaw in an attack police said was not "a terrorist act".

Officers have identified the assailant as Franz Wrousis, a 51-year-old man with a criminal history and no fixed address who reportedly has spent significant time living in a forest.

Late Monday he remained on the run from police.

The attack began shortly after the suspect entered an office building in the northern town of Schaffhausen at 10:30 am (0830 GMT), local police said in a statement.

Switzerland chainsaw attack
Switzerland chainsaw attack
Paz PIZARRO, AFP

Schaffhausen prosecutor Peter Sticher told reporters that an insurance company with offices in the building was the apparent target, indicating the attacker had a grievance with the firm.

The authorities were alerted about 10 minutes after the attack began and rushed officers, ambulances and helicopters to the scene.

The injured included one employee of the insurance company who suffered serious wounds, Schaffhausen police said, adding that all the victims had been hospitalised.

The town's historic old quarter was sealed off by a large deployment of officers who evacuated all nearby businesses and pedestrians, but the barricades were later removed and regular traffic returned to the area.

- 'Dangerous and aggressive' -

Police distributed photos of Wrousis that show him looking dishevelled. He is pictured standing alone in what appears to be a forested area.

A local official in Zurich canton, Ruedi Karrer, told the 20Minuten website he had seen Wrousis in the Uhwiesen forest while walking his dog and believed the suspect had been staying there for about two weeks.

Several other residents told the site they had also passed by Wrousis in the forest -- about two kilometres from Schaffhausen -- and that his behaviour had been threatening.

"This is a dangerous and aggressive man," the chief of security in Schaffhausen, Ravi Landoldt, told reporters. "This was not his first contact with police."

The suspect was convicted in 2014 and again in 2016 for weapons offences, police said.

Despite relatively low crime rates, Switzerland has one of the highest rates of firearm ownership in the world and police said it was likely that the suspect was carrying weapons.

The manhunt involving roughly 100 police officers is being carried out by Schaffhausen authorities and supported by forces from Zurich as well as Germany, police said.

The suspect's vehicle, a white Volkswagen, has been found although he remains on the run.

In statements to local media, police underscored that the attack was not "a terrorist act."

Schaffhausen, just north of Zurich near the German border, has an estimated population of 36,000.

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