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Two killed in shooting in Germany's Halle, one suspect arrested

Police secures the area after a shooting in the eastern German city of Halle on October 9, 2019.
Police secures the area after a shooting in the eastern German city of Halle on October 9, 2019. Sebastian Willnow, AFP

Two people were killed in a shooting in the eastern German city of Halle on Wednesday, two others were seriously wounded and police said they had detained one person. German authorities suspect a ‘far-right’ attack.

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German police said the only suspected gunman in Wednesday’s deadly shooting in the German city of Halle has been detained. A police spokesman told AFP that the man was “being treated” for injuries.

According to the public German television network ARD, the 27-year-old man was wounded with shots from the police during his rampage.

The suspected gunman filmed himself during the attack and posted the footage online, according to the SITE monitoring group, which monitors extremist movements.

"35-mins of head-mounted camera footage of #Halle #Germany shooting was posted on video game site," the group tweeted. In an excerpt of the footage seen by AFP, the suspected perpetrator launched into an anti-Semitic diatribe in English.

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 bistro in the city in the province of Saxony.

Two other people – a man and a woman - were also seriously wounded during the shooting, but their lives are no longer in danger, a spokesman for the city's hospital said.

Police had said in the early afternoon that two “perpetrators fled in a car”, urging residents to stay indoors and closing Halle’s main strain station. Almost six hours later, police lifted the lockdown, assessing that there was no longer acute danger. German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer also indicated the attack had been done by only one person.

Federal prosecutors are taking over the investigation after the shooting, magazine Der Spiegel said on its website, a procedural step that indicates a possible link of the attack to terrorism under German law.

This suspicion was confirmed by Seehofer, who said in a statement the shooting was anti-Semitic: "Based on current information, we have to assume that it was at least an anti-Semitic attack. According to the federal prosecutors' office, there are enough indications that it was possibly a right-wing extremist motive."

Gun rampage on the holiest day in Judaism

The violence occurred on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year in Judaism when Jews fast for more than 24 hours, seeking atonement.

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."

Turkish restaurant also targeted by ‘a man wearing military uniform’

Rifat Tekin, who worked at the targeted Turkish restaurant, which is located about 600 metres from the synagogue, 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," Tekin told n-tv television. "He didn't say anything. He just kept coming and shooting... I was hiding behind the salad counter."

Another witness, Conrad Roesler, said that when the kebab bistro attacker started firing, "I hid in the toilet", after "a man wearing a helmet and military uniform" flung a hand grenade at the store. "The grenade hit the door and exploded," he said. "[The attacker] shot at least once in the shop, the man behind me must be dead.”

Fears of rising anti-Semitism

Despite comprehensive de-Nazification in the post-war era, fears of resurgent anti-Semitic hatred have never completely gone away, whether from far-right neo-Nazis or more recently from Muslim immigrants.

Occasional past attacks have ranged from the scrawling of Nazi swastikas on gravestones to firebombings at synagogues and even several murders. In recent years, cases of assault or verbal abuse, in some cases directed against people wearing traditional Jewish skullcaps, have raised an outcry.

Wednesday's shootings came three months after the shocking assassination-style murder of local pro-migrant politician Walter Luebcke in the western city of Kassel, allegedly by a known neo-Nazi. Luebcke's killing has deeply shaken Germany, raising questions about whether it has failed to take seriously a rising threat from right-wing extremists.

Investigators have been probing the extent of suspect Stephan Ernst's neo-Nazi ties and whether he had links to the far-right militant cell National Socialist Underground.

Anti-Semitism is especially sensitive in Germany, which during World War Two was responsible for the genocide of 6 million Jews in the Nazi Holocaust.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and REUTERS)

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