Germany is investigating claims that the self-proclaimed Islamic State militant group is responsible for a fatal stabbing that killed a 16-year-old boy earlier this month in Hamburg.
Fears of IS-driven attacks in Europe have plagued nations across the continent as attacks on the group’s strongholds in Iraq and Syria intensify. The group’s extensive international network has spurred sympathizers to carry out violent attacks that often appear to be lone-wolf efforts, and Europeans have become increasingly wary of anyone with possible Islamic State connections who may enter their nation along with droves of refugees.
While Germany has not suffered any large-scale attacks like those seen in France and Belgium over the past year, authorities have opened investigations into several smaller incidents in which IS has claimed a role.
Authorities say that the Oct. 16 attack, perpetrated by an unknown and at-large assailant, occurred under a bridge by Alster Lake. A man believed to be in his mid-20s approached two teenagers and pushed a 15-year-old girl into the water and repeatedly stabbed the boy, who later died of his injuries.
IS used its news agency to issue a statement declaring that one of its “soldiers” had carried out the attack, but authorities are questioning the claims’ legitimacy after it said two people were stabbed rather than one.
"A soldier of the Islamic State stabbed two individuals in Hamburg city on the 16th of this month," the release said. It claimed the attack was a response to "calls to target the citizens of coalition countries" that oppose IS militants in Iraq and Syria.
Germany has deployed its air force to play a role in the anti-IS bombing campaign in Syria by providing in-air refueling and reconnaissance flights. Since, the nation has seen a suicide bombing in Ansbach that injured more than a dozen people, and an ax attack in Würzburg that also left several injured.
While many nations have backed anti-immigration policies and practices some say discriminate against Muslims, Germany has shown for support to refugees, accepting nearly 1 million by the beginning of 2016 after Chancellor Angela Merkel instituted an open-door policy. Those numbers are slowing, and the nation expects to accept 300,000 this year – still more than any other country in Europe.
But as refugee integration has proven more problematic than advertised, popularity for Dr. Merkel and her refugee policy has waned.
Experts have stressed that the alleged ties between IS and the recent attacks in Germany may not be as connected as IS claims, but voters are already beginning to show their distrust of the open-door policy with their ballots. The Alternative for Germany party, a conservative political party that decries Merkel’s welcoming stance on refugees, has picked up seats in several local elections, and some wonder if the alternative right could pose a threat to her re-election next year.
German authorities are continuing to investigate the stabbing and seeking to independently verify any ties between IS and the suspect.
"We are looking into the authenticity of the IS claim of responsibility," a police spokeswoman told Agence France-Presse.