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article imagePassers-by flung chairs to stop Hamburg knife attacker

By Daphne ROUSSEAU (AFP)     Jul 28, 2017 in World

Passers-by gave chase and used makeshift weapons to tackle a knife-wielding man who killed one person and injured six others at a Hamburg supermarket on Friday, witnesses of the chaotic scene said.

"A crowd of about 30 people ran out of the supermarket. They yelled that someone had been stabbed... we saw a man go past with a big knife, like a butcher's knife, in his hand," eyewitness Ralf Woyna told AFP.

Woyna had been sitting at a cafe opposite the entrance to the shop where the chase began.

"Two customers who also looked Middle Eastern took all the chairs from the cafe and ran after him. I lost sight of them for a minute and heard a shout of 'Allahu Akbar' in the distance, I knew it was an attack straight away," he added.

An amateur mobile phone video published by news site Spiegel Online showed a handful of pursuers confronting the attacker, a bearded man wearing a T-shirt and jeans, amid dense city traffic.

They can be seen hurling chairs at him to keep him at a safe distance as he yells and brandishes the knife.

According to Spiegel Online, a 35-year-old man injured during the struggle was the one who finally forced the suspect to the ground, using a pole.

Police confirmed that they were alerted to the attack by witnesses, who had given chase and overpowered the as-yet unidentified suspect.

Plainclothes officers were able to capture the man, who was lightly injured.

Newspaper Bild published images of the man lying handcuffed on the ground and sitting in the back seat of a police car, a bloodied white bag pulled over his head.

Media reported that investigators are looking into an Islamist motive for the attack, and Hamburg mayor Olaf Scholz said that he had been motivated by "hate".

He arrived in Germany as an asylum seeker and lived in an accommodation centre for migrants, media reported.

- 'Horror movie' -

The man struck around 1510 (1310 GMT) on Friday afternoon at a popular supermarket on a busy high street in the northeast of Hamburg, Germany's second city and host of early July's G20 summit of world leaders.

A police investigator works at the area around a supermarket in the northern German city of Hamburg
A police investigator works at the area around a supermarket in the northern German city of Hamburg
Markus Scholz, DPA/AFP

He stormed into the supermarket with a "huge knife," an unnamed woman told rolling news channel NTV, gesturing to show that the weapon was about 50 centimetres (20 inches) long.

"I thought I was in a horror movie, I thought he would kill me," she said.

Police said that he struck out "wildly" at people around him, killing a 50-year-old man believed to be a German citizen and wounding four others, a 50-year old woman and men aged 19, 56, 57 and 64.

"As he was running out... he held up his arms and shouted 'Allahu Akbar'," the female eyewitness added.

"I had just been eating next door to the supermarket and then heard loud noises outside. I went out onto the pavement and saw a man stab a woman who was riding a bicycle. She was hurt in the chest and didn't get back up," 64-year-old Sami Shaudhry told broadcasters.

A police spokeswoman said she was unable to confirm the "Allahu Akbar" ("God is greatest" in Arabic) accounts.

Police helicopters rattled overhead and officers with automatic weapons patrolled the area immediately after the attack.

Later on Friday evening, the usually-busy shopping street remained cordoned off as forensics teams and investigators did their work.

There were few onlookers at the lines of red-and-white police tape, with most inhabitants of the racially mixed, working-class district going about their business as usual.

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