Germany railway station at centre of hostage drama

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A man who held a woman hostage at Cologne's main train station also injured two other people Monday, and police said his motives weren't clear but they were investigating if he had extremist connections or beliefs.

Authorities had received an alert at 12:42 local time (1042 GMT) at Cologne railway station, one of the busiest in Europe. Located near the famous Cologne Cathedral, the central station is one of the most important railway junctions on the river Rhine.

But another victim, a 14-year-old girl, was brought to hospital suffering from burns.

An eyewitness told journalists how she heard screams and saw "a girl running for her life" from the cafe with flames spreading up her leg, before she was helped by bystanders.

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Police quoted by the Koelner Stadt-Anzeiger daily said a couple were involved, and a man had argued with a woman in a McDonald's restaurant, before holding her in a pharmacy at the station. Police were immediately notified of the situation and deployed special commando units and a negotiation team to the scene. Police said only that he was injured during the police operation to free the woman.

Investigators said they found gas cartridges inside the the pharmacy's backroom and an ID card for a 55-year-old Syrian citizen. He was also previously known to police for various offenses, which include theft, physical assaults and trespassing, as well as drug dealing. "The investigation is considering all possibilities and we are not ruling out terrorism", said Cologne deputy police chief Miriam Brauns. "We have made contact with the attacker", he said, adding that police were trying to clarify "what does this man want, what are his demands, and is he armed?"

Police said it would likely take a while to get a full picture of what happened at the train station and why. He allegedly said during the incident that he was a member of the extremist Islamic State group.

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