Far-right motive suspected in mass shooting in Germany, authorities say


Gunman kills 9 at two German hookah bars

Hanau, Germany — A 43-year-old German man shot and killed nine people at several locations in a Frankfurt suburb in an attack that appeared to have been motivated by far-right beliefs, officials said Thursday. The gunman first attacked a hookah bar and a neighboring cafe in central Hanau at about 10 p.m. Wednesday, killing several people, before heading about a-mile-and-a-half west and opening fire again, first on a car and then a sports bar, claiming more victims.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel condemned the deadly shooting and pledged to fight against those who try to divide the country along ethnic lines. Speaking Thursday in Berlin, Merkel said, "Everything will be done to investigate the circumstances of these terrible murders" but that much indicated they were motivated by far-right and racist motives.

In unusually plain language, the German leader said: "Racism is a poison. Hatred is a poison."

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Hookah lounges are places where people gather to smoke flavored tobacco from Middle Eastern water pipes, and some of the victims appeared to be Turkish.

The attack was quickly and broadly condemned by many organizations, including the Central Council of Muslims, the Confederation of Kurdish Associations in Germany, and the Central Council of Jews.

A damaged car is seen after a shooting in Hanau near Frankfurt
A damaged car is seen after a shooting in Hanau near Frankfurt, Germany, February 20, 2020. Kai Pfaffenbach / REUTERS

Witnesses and surveillance videos of the suspect's getaway car led authorities quickly to his home, near the scene of the second attack, where he was found dead near his 72-year-old mother, said Peter Beuth, the interior minister for the state of Hesse.

Both had gunshot wounds, and the weapon was found on the suspect, Beuth said.

In addition to those killed, Beuth said one person was seriously wounded and multiple other people suffered less serious injuries.

A website believed to be the suspect's is being evaluated, Beuth said. "Initial analysis of the webpage of the suspect indicate a xenophobic motivation," he said.

The German news agency dpa said police were examining a video the suspect may have posted online several days earlier in which he details a conspiracy theory about child abuse in the United States. The authenticity of the video couldn't immediately be verified.

On a website registered by someone with the same name as the man in the video, Tobias R., the owner says he was born in Hanau in 1977 and grew up in the city, later training with a bank and completing a business degree in 2007. Beuth said the gunman owned firearms legally and was a sports marksman, according to the Reuters news agency.

Reuters said the daily Bild newspaper reported that the gunman left a letter and video behind in which he confessed and expressed extreme right-wing views. The paper didn't cite a source. Beuth told reporters investigations of possible letters of confession were ongoing, Reuters said.

The attack comes amid growing concerns about far-right violence in Germany.

Beuth said federal prosecutors have taken over the investigation and are treating it as an act of domestic terrorism. "This is an attack on our free and peaceful society," he said.

Merkel called off a planned visit Thursday to a university in Halle. It was the site of a deadly anti-Semitic attack last year. A man expressing anti-Jewish views tried to shoot his way into a synagogue, failed and killed two passers-by before being arrested.

The shooting in Halle came months after the killing of a regional politician from Merkel's party. The suspect had a long history of neo-Nazi activity and convictions for violent crime.

"This was a terrible evening that will certainly occupy us for a long, long time and we will remember with sadness," Hanau Mayor Claus Kaminsky told the Bild. Lawmaker Katja Leikert, a member of Merkel's center-right party who represents Hanau in the German parliament, tweeted that it was "a real horror scenario for us all."

First published on February 19, 2020 / 7:02 PM

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