World

9 killed in suspected far-right attack in Germany

A 43-year-old German man shot and killed nine people at several locations in a Frankfurt suburb overnight in attacks that appear to have been motivated by far-right beliefs, officials said Thursday.

Federal prosecutors investigating, treating it as an act of domestic terrorism

Police, emergency services and forensic police are seen behind a police cordon near a bar in the centre of Hanau on Thursday after at least nine people were killed in shootings. (Thomas Lohnes/AFP/Getty Images)

A 43-year-old German man who posted a manifesto calling for the "complete extermination" of many "races or cultures in our midst" shot and killed nine people of foreign background, most of them Turkish, in an attack on a hookah bar and other sites in a Frankfurt suburb, authorities said Thursday.

He was later found dead at his home along with his mother, and authorities said they were treating the rampage as an act of domestic terrorism.

The gunman first attacked the hookah bar and a neighbouring cafe in Hanau at about 10 p.m. local time Wednesday, killing several people, then travelled about 2.5 kilometres and opened fire again, first on a car and then a sports bar, claiming more victims.

Hookah lounges are places where people gather to smoke flavoured tobacco from Middle Eastern water pipes, and some of the victims appeared to be Turkish.

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.

Both the suspect and his mother had gunshot wounds, and the weapon was found on the suspect, Beuth said.

A website believed to be the suspect's is being evaluated, Beuth said.

"Initial analysis of the web page of the suspect indicates 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 said.

A man lays candles and flowers in front of one of the businesses targeted in the shooting. (Thomas Lohnes/AFP/Getty Images)

Germany's federal prosecutor, Peter Frank, said that all nine people killed were of foreign backgrounds and that six others were injured, one seriously.

Investigators said it appeared the gunman acted alone, but Frank said the "goal of the investigation is to find out whether there were, or are, people who knew of, or supported" the attacks. He added that his office was looking into any contacts the killer may have had inside Germany and abroad.

Concerns about far-right violence in Germany

Frank identified the gunman only as Tobias R., in line with German privacy laws, and confirmed he had posted extremist videos and a manifesto with "confused ideas and far-fetched conspiracy theories" on his website.

The man identified himself as Tobias Rathjen on the website, which has now been taken down, with a mailing address matching that where the bodies of the killer and his mother were found.

CBC News has decided not to report the details of what was in the manifesto or video. 

The attack comes amid growing concerns about far-right violence in Germany.

Chancellor Angela Merkel called off a planned visit Thursday to a university in Halle. Her spokesperson, 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 passersby 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 other people suffered less serious injuries. Deutsche Welle, Germany's international broadcaster, reported that four people were injured but did not provide additional details on severity.

Police officers swarmed central Hanau, cordoning off the area of one of the shootings as a helicopter hovered overhead. A car covered in thermal foil also could be seen, with shattered glass next to it. Forensic experts in white overalls collected evidence.

"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. Lawmaker 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 20 kilometres east of Frankfurt. It has about 100,000 inhabitants and is in Hesse state.