Two killed in ‘anti-Semitic’ shooting in Germany

Man arrested after attack on synagogue in Halle during Yom Kippur streamed online

In this screenshot taken from a video by ATV-Studio Halle, a man fires a gun in the streets of Halle an der Saale, eastern Germany. Photograph: Andreas Splett/ATV-Studio Halle/AFP via Getty Images

In this screenshot taken from a video by ATV-Studio Halle, a man fires a gun in the streets of Halle an der Saale, eastern Germany. Photograph: Andreas Splett/ATV-Studio Halle/AFP via Getty Images

 

German police are questioning a 27-year-old German man suspected of streaming online his gun attack on a synagogue in Germany’s eastern city of Halle, killing at least two people.

Police say the alleged attacker, a reported neo-Nazi named locally as Stephan Balliet, attempted to shoot his way into the synagogue where up to 80 people were gathered to mark Yom Kippur, the day of atonement and the highest holy day in the Jewish religious calendar.

Afterwards he laid explosives around the building, then shot a man and a woman: a customer at kebab kiosk near the synagogue and a passerby at the adjacent Jewish graveyard.

“We saw via our synagogue’s camera how a heavily armed man with a steel helmet tried to shoot out our doors,” said Max Privorozki, head of the local Jewish community in Halle, 170km southwest of Berlin. “The perpetrator shot many times at the door and threw several Molotov cocktails, fireworks or grenades to force his way in. But the door remained closed. God protected us.”

Synagogues and other Jewish buildings in Germany all have police protection and other security measures, including closed circuit television and no-parking restrictions.

Police walk along the wall to a Jewish cemetery near the scene of a shooting that has left two people dead in Halle, Germany. Photograph: Jens Schlueter/Getty Images
Police walk along the wall to a Jewish cemetery near the scene of a shooting that has left two people dead in Halle, Germany. Photograph: Jens Schlueter/Getty Images

Eyewitnesses reported seeing an attacker in army fatigues and bullet-proof vest. Smartphone videos posted online of the 10-minute attack appear to show a shooter with a camera on his helmet firing a sawn-off rifle several times.

In the video the alleged gunman can be heard swearing and using derogatory slang for Jews and Turks.

Local media reported that a grenade was detonated at a Jewish graveyard near the synagogue.

Initially police believed they were hunting for several shooters, but later corrected this.

The two dead were not identified while the two injured were hospitalised on Wednesday afternoon with serious injuries.

The suspected shooter walking along a street in Halle, Germany, in this screenshot from ATV-Studio Halle video. Photograph: Andreas Splett/ATV-Studio Halle/AFP via Getty Images
The suspected shooter walking along a street in Halle, Germany, in this screenshot from ATV-Studio Halle video. Photograph: Andreas Splett/ATV-Studio Halle/AFP via Getty Images

After the attack the suspect, who is from the state of Saxony-Anhalt, fled east from Halle and attempted to hijack a taxi around 1.30pm.

Shots were fired, another man was injured and, three hours later, the suspect was detained around 70km south of Halle in a car.

Local police in the eastern state of Saxony-Anhalt scrambled to launch the manhunt. They warned locals to remain indoors for six hours and Halle main train station was also sealed off for the same time.

On Wednesday afternoon security was stepped up at Jewish buildings around Germany over the attacks that prompted strong statements from leading German politicians.

Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed her “deep sympathies” while foreign minister Heiko Maas said it “hits us in the heart that shots were fired at a synagogue on the day of atonement”.

Germany’s federal prosecutor has taken charge of the case.

Federal interior minister Horst Seehofer said current indications pointed to an anti-Semitic far-right motive.

“The highest Jewish holiday Yom Kippur is today a black day,” he said.

News of the attack prompted messages of sympathy from around the world, and a minute’s silence in the European Parliament.