Germany: eight dead in a shooting in Hamburg

German police reported on Friday that eight people were killed in a shooting at a Jehovah’s Witnesses service, including “obviously” the probable perpetrator, who according to the press is a former member of this community.

He “shot at participants in a prayer event” organised by the community in its centre in Hamburg in the north of the country on Thursday evening, police said. Other people were injured, “some of them seriously”, it added.

Several German media outlets reported that eight people were seriously injured. According to Der Spiegel magazine, the alleged gunman is a former member of Jehovah’s Witnesses, aged about 30, and was armed with a pistol. He forced his way into the building where the prayer session was being held, attended by about 50 people, according to Spiegel. The Jehovah’s Witnesses said in a statement that they were “shocked” by the “horrific attack” on some of their members, which occurred “after a church service”.

Law enforcement officials said they favoured a single gunman. They “were called at about 9.15pm (20.15 GMT) to shots fired” in the three-storey building used by the community in the Gross Borstel district, a police spokesman said. The police “entered the building very quickly and found dead and seriously wounded,” the spokesman said. The daily Bild spoke of a “bloodbath” inside the building.

Inside, the officers also heard a gunshot “coming from the upper part of the building” and found another person, the spokesman continued. It was clearly the shooter. “There were about four separate phases of shooting,” a neighbour, Lara Bauch, told the daily Bild. “During each of them we heard several shots fired, each 20 seconds to a minute apart,” she said. “I kept looking out the window and saw someone running at full speed from the ground floor to the first floor of the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ house,” the witness said.

Local authorities issued an alert on Thursday night to discourage residents from leaving their homes. It was lifted during the night. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz sent his “thoughts” to the victims of the shooting and their families on Friday, deploring in a tweet “a brutal act of violence”. Interior Minister Nancy Faeser also reacted on Twitter, saying she was “shocked by the terrible act of violence perpetrated in a Jehovah’s Witness community in Hamburg”


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