A German man has shot and killed nine people at several locations in a Frankfurt suburb in attacks that appear to have been motivated by far-right beliefs, officials said.
The gunman first attacked a hookah bar in central Hanau at about 10pm on 19 February, killing several people, before heading about 1.5 miles west and opening fire again, claiming more victims.
Hookah lounges are places where people gather to smoke flavoured tobacco from Middle Eastern water pipes.
Witnesses and surveillance videos of the suspect’s getaway car led authorities 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.
A website believed to be the 43-year-old suspect’s is being evaluated, Beuth said.
“Initial analysis of the webpage of the suspect indicate a xenophobic motivation,” he added.
He said federal prosecutors have taken over the investigation of the crime and are treating it as an act of domestic terrorism.
“This is an attack on our free and peaceful society,” he said.
Some of the victims are believed to be Turkish, and Turkey’s foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the consulate in Frankfurt and the embassy in Berlin are trying to obtain information on the attack.
“According to the initial information, it was an attack with a racist motive, but we would need to wait for the (official) statement,” he told state television TRT.
The attack comes amid growing concerns about far-right violence in Germany.
Chancellor Angela Merkel called off a planned visit on 20 February to a university in Halle. Her spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said she was “being constantly kept abreast of the state of the investigations in Hanau”.
Halle 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.
“Thoughts this morning are with the people of Hanau, in whose midst this terrible crime was committed,” Seibert said on Twitter. “Deep sympathy for the affected families, who are grieving for their dead. We hope with those wounded that they will soon recover.”
In addition to those killed, Beuth said one person was seriously wounded and multiple others suffered less serious injuries.
“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 newspaper.
Legislator Katja Leikert, a member of Merkel’s centre-right party who represents Hanau in the German parliament, tweeted that it was “a real horror scenario for us all”.
Hanau is about 12 miles east of Frankfurt, and has about 100,000 inhabitants.
Do your bit for independent journalism
Did you know that less than 1.5% of our readers contribute financially to The Canary? Imagine what we could do if just a few more people joined our movement to achieve a shared vision of a free and fair society where we nurture people and planet.
We need you to help out, if you can.
When you give a monthly amount to fund our work, you are supporting truly independent journalism. We hold power to account and have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence the counterpoint to the mainstream.
You can count on us for rigorous journalism and fearless opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right wing mainstream media.
In return you get:
- Advert free reading experience
- Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
- 20% discount from our shop