ISIS recruiter who murdered man just because he was gay jailed for life

Dresden knife attack

The Dresden knife attacker who killed a gay man and injured another was sentenced to life in prison Friday (21 May).

Abdullah A, a 21-year-old Syrian man and ISIS recruiter, was found guilty of murder by the Dresden Higher Regional Court in Germany, seven months after the knife attack on the couple.

The victims, Oliver, 53 and Thomas, 55, had visited Saxony’s capital city for a vacation from the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia. Thomas died of his injuries. Oliver was badly wounded but survived.

Federal prosecutors claimed the assailant targeted the couple for being gay, fuelled by a longstanding hatred for queer folk only fanned by the radical Islamist ideology that consumed him.

According to Deutsche Welle, prosecutors lobbied for the maximum sentence, while his defence wanted him tried as a juvenile.

The courts found him guilty on charges of attempted murder and grievous bodily harm and determined a “particular severity of guilty”, so will unlikely be granted early release.

What happened in the Dresden knife attack?

Days before the attack, Abdullah, then 20, had been released from juvenile detention for a 2018 conviction of promoting ISIS and for plotting a suicide bomb attack with the help of other militants. He had also been recruiting new members.

Upon his release, he purchased two kitchen knives from a local supermarket. His plan, prosecutors alleged, was to “kill infidels”.

Just half an hour later, he found his targets.

During a long-sought e-bike holiday, the victims, who had been in a relationship for more than eight years with plans to move in together after the trip, were attacked outside the Palace of Culture.

“Suddenly there was a blow, a complete surprise, in the back,” Oliver told detectives of the moment a 21-centimetre kitchen knife punctured him.

“I can’t remember anything and, to be honest, I’m glad I don’t.”

Abdullah considered being gay “grave sin“. “He believed they were homosexuals,” prosecutor Marco Mayer told the court, France24 reported, “for which he wanted to punish them with death.”

The attack shuddered fear among the country’s LGBT+ community and frustration among the country’s leadership, being the first known Islamist-motivated killing of a gay person in the country.

“Investigations have shown that the dreadful killing in Dresden had an Islamist background,” justice minister Christine Lambrecht said of the incident at the time.

“Islamist terror is a major, enduring threat to our society that we have to tackle determinedly.”

Abdullah remained silent during the court proceedings. Born in Aleppo, he was granted “tolerated” refugee status in May 2016, meaning his asylum claim was rejected but he could not be deported.

Mayer described him as becoming “increasingly radicalised”, with the offender was tapped as “dangerous” by law enforcement as early as 2017. He had published Islamic State (ISIS) symbols and flags on his Facebook profile.

He spent two years and nine months in jail the following years for his ever-increasing ISIS activity. Abdullah had been searching online for how to build an explosive built that, the court heard, he hoped to detonate during a film festival.