How a Kurd confronted the assassin in Würzburg

GAt 7 p.m. on Saturday evening, Chia Rabiei is back on Würzburg’s Barbarossaplatz – not far from the candles and flowers that were placed in memory of the victims of the terrible crime on Friday afternoon. It’s been about 26 hours since Rabiei came down here in front of the Woolworth department store and saw a man stab passers-by with a knife. It later turned out that it was a 24-year-old rejected asylum seeker from Somalia who enjoys subsidiary protection in Germany, i.e. cannot be deported. What Rabiei then did is captured on cellphone videos circulating on Youtube and social media.

The person there looks just like him: beard around upper lip and chin, hair tied back in a small braid, legs a little stronger. Only with a backpack does the man try to distract the perpetrator, who is still holding his long knife in his hand, to keep at bay. Immediately he drops the backpack and tries screaming and martial arts movements. He taught himself that, Rabiei told the FAZ. The video shows the murderer picking up something from the floor and throwing it at him. There are already two backpacks on the street. Rabiei had bought one shortly beforehand in the “Brauchbar” social department store.

Chia Rabiei the day after the knife attack on Würzburg's Barbarossaplatz


Chia Rabiei the day after the knife attack on Würzburg’s Barbarossaplatz
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Image: Timo Frasch

Rabiei says he is 42 years old and a Kurd from Iran. He has been in Germany for 17 months. He lives in asylum seekers’ accommodation, is in an asylum procedure and is taking a German course. If he can’t make himself understood as he wants, two men who accompanied him to Barbarossaplatz translate, especially one who introduces himself as a writer and Iraqi Kurd and says he has been living in Würzburg for a long time. Rabiei claims to have a daughter, who also lives in Germany, in Hof. In Iran, he was a self-employed taxi driver in Mahabad, a Kurdish city in the northwest of the country.

Rabiei does not want to say anything more about the reasons why he is now looking for happiness in Germany. When asked whether he did not fear for his life in the confrontation with the attacker, he says: no. But the events did not let him come to rest. He couldn’t sleep because he kept wondering why he wasn’t at the crime scene earlier. Then maybe he could have intervened earlier and stopped the perpetrator. Perhaps this way he could have prevented the man from injuring and killing so many people.

Because the assassin did not speak a word the whole time, he had the feeling of fighting a deaf and mute person, says Rabiei. He also didn’t notice the people around him and at that moment was like being in a tunnel. Only when he saw the recordings did he notice how many people were around him. His conscience plagued him because he couldn’t do more. He had already testified to the police.

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