Hanau, Germany (dpa) – A shooting spree in the German town of Hanau late on Wednesday that left 11, including the shooter, dead is being investigated as terrorism.
“Based on what we know now, there was definitely a xenophobic motive,” Hesse state Interior Minister Peter Beuth said after a Thursday morning press briefing.
The alleged shooter was found dead in his flat along with the body of his 72-year-old mother, said Beuth. The 43-year-old man was a hunter and owned his guns legally, but had never come to the attention of authorities before the attacks.
Beuth said that the attacks on three shisha bars and a vehicle left nine other people dead and one seriously injured. Multiple other injuries were also reported. The attacker reportedly entered the bars and began killing people execution-style.
Many of the victims were of foreign descent, according to sources in law enforcement. However, it is not clear if any of them were foreign nationals.
Turkish citizens are among those killed, a spokesman for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said, adding to worries that the shooter singled out his victims based on race and ethnicity.
“May Allah rest the souls of our citizens who died in the racist and xenophobic attack that took place in Germany last night,” Ibrahim Kalin wrote on Twitter.
Kalin said he expects German authorities to “show maximum effort” to shed light on the incident.
German Justice Minister Christine Lambrecht said it was “shocking how many people were senselessly killed.
“We have to clear up the background of this attack and do everything to prevent such attacks in future.”
Beuth said it is believed the suspect worked alone. It is also believed he killed himself and his mother. The weapon used in the killings was found next to the suspect’s body.
At some point, the suspect posted a nearly one-hour video online in which he said that Germany was being run by a secret agency with wide-ranging powers. He also made negative statements about migrants from Arab countries and Turkey.
Germany’s federal public prosecutor took over the investigation during the night, said a spokesman for the prosecutor’s office in Karlsruhe.
Police said the two crime scenes were at Heumarkt, in the centre of Hanau, and Kurt-Schumacher-Platz in the western neighbourhood of Kesselstadt, some 2 kilometres away.
Beuth listed three shisha bars, locales where people gather to enjoy water pipes, that were attacked, and noted that there were also shots fired at a vehicle in the city. He said authorities made use of surveillance cameras to identify the car and the residence of the car’s owner.
Bullet casings were on the street in front of a business on the street, according to a dpa reporter. Police told passers-by to leave the area.
A photo from the Kesselstadt area showed a car covered in foil, with shards of glass next to it. Emergency services were in the area.
Heavily armed police had secured the area in the town centre and cordoned off the scene.
Hanau is around 20 kilometres east of Frankfurt and has a population of around 10,000.
German government spokesman Steffen Seibert tweeted a message of support to those in the town.
“Thoughts this morning are with the people of Hanau, in the centre of which a despicable crime was committed,” he wrote on Thursday morning.
The town’s mayor, Claus Kaminsky, said it was “an evening that you can hardly imagine being any worse.”
“It was a terrible evening, that will surely occupy us for a long long time and stay with us in sad memories,” he said in comments to an online broadcast from Bild newspaper.
Katja Leikert, a parliamentarian for the Hanau constituency, said on Twitter that it was a “true horror scenario for us all.”
The shock quickly spilled across Europe, with messages of condolence coming in from the European Union and Italy. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, a German native, tweeted that “I am deeply shocked by the tragedy that took place last night in Hanau.”