10 Oct 2019

Germany gun attacks: At least two killed in Halle shootings

8:18 am on 10 October 2019

A gunman has killed two people on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish year, in an attack in the German city of Halle that he livestreamed on a video-gaming platform.

Policemen climb over a wall of the Jewish cemetery close to the site of a shooting in Halle an der Saale, eastern Germany, on October 9, 2019.

Policemen climb over a wall of the Jewish cemetery close to the site of a shooting in Halle an der Saale. Photo: AFP

Before he began shooting, the attacker also broadcast an anti-Semitic manifesto online.

Several German media outlets said the perpetrator acted alone in the attacks, in which a woman was killed outside the synagogue and a man in the kebab shop. Police said they had detained one person.

Regional broadcaster MDR said the lives of two people who were seriously injured were no longer in danger.

The video circulating online showed a young man with a shaven head reciting a short statement in broken English to a camera while sitting in a parked car.

He mentioned mass immigration and concluded: "The root of all these problems is the Jew."

A spokeswoman for Amazon's video streaming subsidiary Twitch said footage of the shooting attack was livestreamed on the service.

"We worked with urgency to remove this content and will permanently suspend any accounts found to be posting or reposting content of this abhorrent act," she said.

In this screenshot taken from a video by ATV-Studio Halle, a man shoots in the streets of Halle an der Saale, eastern Germany, on October 9, 2019.

A suspect was filmed wearing a helmet and shooting into a street. Photo: AFP

In the video, the man drove to the synagogue, found the gates shut, swore, and after failing to force the gates open, shot several rounds into a woman passer-by.

German magazines Spiegel and Focus Online reported that the suspect was a 27-year old German.

Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said the shooting was anti-Semitic, adding: "According to the federal prosecutors' office, there are enough indications that it was possibly a right-wing extremist motive."

A spokeswoman for the Halle municipal government said one shooting took place in front of the synagogue on Humboldt street and its accompanying cemetery, while a second burst of gunfire targeted the kebab shop in the eastern German city.

Max Privorozki, Halle's Jewish community chairman, described how the gunman tried to shoot his way into the synagogue.

"We saw via the camera system at our synagogue that a heavily armed perpetrator with a steel helmet and a gun tried to shoot open our doors," he told the Stuttgarter Zeitung newspaper.

"The man looked like he was from the special forces ... But our doors held.

"We barricaded the doors from inside and waited for the police," he said, adding that about 70 or 80 people were inside the synagogue celebrating Yom Kippur.

Merkel condemns attack

German Chancellor Angela Merkel's government voiced outrage over the attack on Yom Kippur and urged tougher action against anti-Semitic violence.

"That on the Day of Atonement a synagogue was shot at hits us in the heart," Foreign Minister Heiko Maas wrote on Twitter. "We must all act against anti-Semitism in our country."

Anti-Semitism is a particularly sensitive issue in Germany, which during World War II was responsible for the genocide of 6 million Jews in the Nazi Holocaust. Around 200,000 Jews live today in the country of around 83 million people.

Rifat Tekin, who worked at the kebab outlet, said he was making a kebab for two construction workers when a perpetrator threw an explosive at the restaurant before shooting.

"He was very calm, like a professional," Mr Tekin told n-tv television. "He didn't say anything. He just kept coming and shooting ... I was hiding behind the salad counter."

German federal prosecutors have said they are taking over the investigation because of the "particular importance of the case".

NZ tourist hears gunshots

Shane Smith, a tourist from New Zealand, heard six loud shots from the flat where he was staying, he told the BBC.

He later witnessed a vehicle speeding up a local road, pursued by a police car with a damaged window.

Local police have told local residents to stay calm and be wary of false reports of further incidents.

A minute's silence was held for the victims in the European Parliament in Brussels.

"Together with you, I would like to express my sympathies to the German police forces, the German people and the German Jewish community," European Parliament President David Sassoli said, leading the tribute.

- BBC / Reuters