Three killed in Germany knife attack were all women

The attacker grabbed a knife and fatally stabbed three women in a shop in Wuerzburg

Two women place a candle at a makeshift memorial of flowers and candles in tribute to the victims of a deadly attack in the city center of Wuerzburg, southern Germany, on June 26, 2021. Investigators were racing to pinpoint the motive of a man who went on a knife rampage in the German city of Wuerzburg, killing three people and leaving five seriously injured. The suspect, a 24-year-old Somali who arrived in Wuerzburg in 2015, staged the attack in the city centre on the evening of Friday, June 25, 2021, striking at a household goods store before advancing to a bank. / AFP / ARMANDO BABANI

The suspect in a knife attack in southern Germany that left three women dead was ordered to be kept in custody on Saturday on suspicion of murder while authorities puzzle over a possible motive, examine his mental health and seek to determine if he was radicalised.

The attack started late on Friday afternoon when the man, 24, walked into a shop in Wuerzburg, went to the household goods department and asked a saleswoman where the knives were, regional police chief Gerhard Kallert said.

He then grabbed a knife and fatally stabbed three women in the shop, before continuing to attack people outside.

Six people, most of them women, were seriously wounded and one of them remained in a life-threatening condition on Saturday.

Videos posted on social media showed people surrounding the attacker and trying to hold him at bay with chairs and sticks. He was then stopped with a shot to the leg by police and arrested.

On Saturday, he was brought before a judge, who ordered that he be held in jail pending a possible indictment on suspicion of three counts of murder, six of attempted murder and dangerous bodily harm, and another of bodily harm.

The man, a Somali, arrived in Germany in May 2015 and was granted “subsidiary protection,” a status that falls short of full asylum. He had been in Wuerzburg since 2019, and was living in a homeless shelter.

Officials said he did not have a criminal record but there were two incidents earlier this year that resulted in him being sent briefly to a psychiatric hospital.

Authorities also were looking at the possibility of the man having been radicalised as an Islamic extremist.

Bavaria’s top security official, Joachim Herrmann, said that “further cautious indications” in that direction emerged from his questioning, without elaborating.

As to whether the man was mentally ill or radicalised, "we don't know either one thing or the other for sure at the moment, but I just want to note that they don't rule each other out", Mr Herrmann said.

Authorities were examining a mobile phone and other evidence.

The case was handed over to prosecutors in Munich, the state capital, but not to federal prosecutors who deal with terror cases.