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Motivated by far-right beliefs: officials
HANAU, Germany, Feb 20, (AP): A 43-year-old German man shot and killed nine people at several locations in a Frankfurt suburb in attacks 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 pm Wednesday, killing several people, before heading about 2.5 kilometers (1.5 miles) west and opening fire again, first on a car and then a sports bar, claiming more victims.
Chancellor Angela Merkel said that while the circumstances of the attack still needed to be fully investigated, the shootings exposed the “poison” of racism in German society. Merkel pledged to stand up against those who seek to divide the country. “There is much to indicate that the perpetrator acted out of far-right extremist, racist motives. Out of hatred for people with other origins, other faiths or a different appearance,” the German leader said. 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.
Witness Kadir Kose ran over from a cafe he runs nearby after he heard the first shots, initially assuming there was an altercation between family members. “But when I heard the second shots I thought it was a terror attack,” Kose said. He said he was shocked at the extent of the violence, saying that while fights or stabbing aren’t unheard of, “this is a whole other level, something we hear about from America.”
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 the body of his 72-year-old mother, said Peter Beuth, the interior minister for the state of Hesse.
Neighbor Dieter Hog said he looked out his window and saw 25 or 30 police officers with dogs combing the area. “They were running around looking for the fugitive who was involved,” Hog told The Associated Press, adding that even though he lived close by he did not know the suspect. Both the suspect and his mother had gunshot wounds, and the weapon was found on the suspect, Beuth said.
At the townhouse Thursday, forensic experts came and went from the building, and police kept people away. A website believed to be the suspect’s is being evaluated, Beuth said. “Initial analysis of the web page of the suspect indicate a xenophobic motivation,” he said. It does not appear, however, that the suspect was known either to police or Germany’s domestic intelligence agency, 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. Following a conference call with Germany’s state interior ministers, Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann said on the basis of the investigation so far, “it was a rightradical xenophobic” attack, German news agency dpa reported. 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. Merkel pledged that “everything will be done to investigate the circumstances of these terrible murders.”