09 October, 2019
By SJA Jafri + Agencies
HALLE/ MELBOURNE: A shooting in the eastern German city of Halle has left at least two people dead. Another two are thought to be seriously wounded in hospital.
One person was detained by police following the attack, which German media said took place outside a synagogue during Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar.
“Our forces have detained one person,” the Halle police wrote in a tweet. “We remain alert, however. We have deployed forces in and around Halle and are trying to stabilise the situation until we have all the relevant information.”
Bild, a German daily, reported a gunman opened fire with an automatic weapon and lobbed a hand grenade into a nearby cemetery. Police have not yet confirmed details of the attack, but federal anti-terrorism agents are taking over the investigation, it has emerged.
The head of Halle’s Jewish community, Max Privorotzki, told news magazine Der Spiegel there were 70 or 80 people inside the synagogue and security outside when the shooting occurred.
Synagogues are often protected by police in Germany, and police in two other eastern cities, Dresden and Leipzig, stepped up security at synagogues there after the shooting in Halle.
Another shooting was reported in the town of Landsberg, 15km (nine miles) away, but it has not been confirmed if the two are linked. The mayor of Landsberg said two people suspected of carrying out a deadly shooting attack in the area had hijacked a car and were on a motorway that leads to Munich.
The central train station in Halle has been closed while the area is under lockdown, rail company Deutsche Bahn said.
Eyewitness Konrad Roesler told news channel NTV he was in a Turkish restaurant about 600 metres from the synagogue when “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. I hid in the toilet and locked the door.”
Speaking to NTV, a police spokesman said the motive of the suspect or suspects was not clear.
“We don’t have any indication about the motive of this act.”
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 (NSU).
Interior Minister Horst Seehofer last month warned of the rising danger of the militant far right, calling it “as big a threat as radical Islamism”.
Seehofer said that police had uncovered 1,091 weapons including firearms and explosives during probes of crimes linked to the far right last year, far more than in 2017 when 676 were found.
At the same time, Germany has also been on high alert following several attacks in recent years claimed by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant group.