German-Iranian kills 9 people, then himself, in Munich terror rampage
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German-Iranian kills 9 people, then himself, in Munich terror rampage

Police chief says 18-year-old had no criminal past, motive unclear; Merkel to convene security council following deadly attack; Western leaders rush to show support

  • Police sign blocks the entrance to Odeon square following shootings at a shopping mall earlier on July 22, 2016 in Munich. (AFP Photo/dpa/Sven Hoppe)
    Police sign blocks the entrance to Odeon square following shootings at a shopping mall earlier on July 22, 2016 in Munich. (AFP Photo/dpa/Sven Hoppe)
  • Police secures the entrance to a subway station near a shopping mall where a shooting took place on July 22, 2016 in Munich. Several people were killed on Friday in a shooting rampage by a lone gunman in a Munich shopping center, media reports said. (Lukas Schulze/DPA/AFP)
    Police secures the entrance to a subway station near a shopping mall where a shooting took place on July 22, 2016 in Munich. Several people were killed on Friday in a shooting rampage by a lone gunman in a Munich shopping center, media reports said. (Lukas Schulze/DPA/AFP)
  • Police secures the area near a shopping mall following a shooting on July 22, 2016 in Munich. Several people were killed on Friday in a shooting rampage by a lone gunman in a Munich shopping center, media reports said. (Matthias Balk/DPA/AFP)
    Police secures the area near a shopping mall following a shooting on July 22, 2016 in Munich. Several people were killed on Friday in a shooting rampage by a lone gunman in a Munich shopping center, media reports said. (Matthias Balk/DPA/AFP)
  • German police walk near a shopping mall in Munich during a shooting attack that left nine people dead on July 22, 2016. (Matthias Balk/DPA/AFP)
    German police walk near a shopping mall in Munich during a shooting attack that left nine people dead on July 22, 2016. (Matthias Balk/DPA/AFP)
  • Police and firefighters are seen near a shopping mall amid a shooting on July 22, 2016 in Munich. (AFP PHOTO / dpa / Matthias Balk)
    Police and firefighters are seen near a shopping mall amid a shooting on July 22, 2016 in Munich. (AFP PHOTO / dpa / Matthias Balk)
  • Police secures the area inside a shopping center in Munich on July 22, 2016 following a shooting.
At least one person has been killed and 10 wounded in a shooting at a shopping centre in Munich on Friday, German police said. (AFP PHOTO / STR)
    Police secures the area inside a shopping center in Munich on July 22, 2016 following a shooting. At least one person has been killed and 10 wounded in a shooting at a shopping centre in Munich on Friday, German police said. (AFP PHOTO / STR)
  • Police secures the area outside a shopping center in Munich on July 22, 2016 following a shooting attack. (AFP PHOTO/STR)
    Police secures the area outside a shopping center in Munich on July 22, 2016 following a shooting attack. (AFP PHOTO/STR)
  • Police cars stand in front of a main train station following shootings at a shopping mall earlier on July 22, 2016 in Munich. (AFP PHOTO / dpa / Andreas Gebert)
    Police cars stand in front of a main train station following shootings at a shopping mall earlier on July 22, 2016 in Munich. (AFP PHOTO / dpa / Andreas Gebert)

MUNICH, Germany (AFP) — A teenage German-Iranian gunman who killed nine people in a shooting rampage at a busy Munich mall and then committed suicide had likely acted alone, German police said Saturday.

The third attack on civilians in Europe in barely a week sent panicked shoppers fleeing the Olympia mall as elite police launched a massive operation to track down what had initially been thought to be up to three assailants.

“The perpetrator was an 18-year-old German-Iranian from Munich,” police chief Hubertus Andrae told reporters after the rampage.

The shooter had dual citizenship and “no criminal record.”

“The motive or explanation for this crime is completely unclear,” he added.

However, a police spokesman in the Bavarian capital had said earlier that terrorism was suspected, without revealing any immediate indications of an Islamist link.

A gunman opens fire outside a Munich shopping mall, July 22, 2016 (YouTube screenshot)
A gunman opens fire outside a Munich shopping mall, July 22, 2016 (YouTube screenshot)

Armed with a handgun, the attacker opened fire at a McDonald’s restaurant early Friday evening and continued in the street before entering the Olympia mall, killing nine people and wounding 16 in his rampage, according to the latest toll.

“There were youths among the dead,” Andrae said, adding that some of those injured were children.

A police patrol had shot and wounded the attacker but he had managed to escape, he said.

People are evacuated from the area around the shopping mall Olympia Einkaufzentrum OEZ in Munich, Germany on July 22, 2016 after gunmen went on a shooting rampage in the busy shopping center, killing nine people before taking his own life. (AFP PHOTO/STRINGER)
People are evacuated from the area around the shopping mall Olympia Einkaufzentrum OEZ in Munich, Germany on July 22, 2016 after gunmen went on a shooting rampage in the busy shopping center, killing nine people before taking his own life. (AFP Photo)

The suspected attacker’s body was later found about one kilometer (0.6 miles) from the mall where the shootings took place, German DPA news agency reported.

“We found a man who killed himself. We assume that he was the only shooter,” police said on Twitter.

A video posted on social media appeared to show a man dressed in black walking away from a McDonald’s while firing repeatedly on people as they fled screaming.

Munich’s main train station was evacuated and metro and bus transport in the city suspended for several hours while residents were ordered to stay inside, leaving the streets largely deserted.

Ali Sonboly (Courtesy)
Ali Sonboly (Courtesy)

By early Saturday, transport services were running again, Munich police said.

Chancellor Angela Merkel was scheduled to convene her security council later on Saturday to address the deadly rampage in the European economic powerhouse.

Germany took in more than one million migrants and refugees last year.

“We are determined to do everything we can so that terror and inhuman violence stand no chance in Germany,” Merkel’s chief of staff Peter Altmaier said.

‘Murderous attack’

The spree began before 1600 GMT at the McDonald’s and continued on a nearby street before the attacker moved into the Olympia center — which lies not far from the scene of the 1972 Olympics massacre, where 11 Israeli athletes were murdered by Palestinian terrorists.

Shoppers rushed away from the mall, some carrying children in their arms, as the building was surrounded by armed police and emergency vehicles, while helicopters buzzed overhead.

The attack came just days after a teenage asylum seeker went on a rampage with an ax and a knife on a train on Monday near Wuerzburg, also in Bavaria, injuring five people.

This still image taken from an undated video posted on The Aamaq news agency, which is affiliated to the Islamic State group, purports to show a 17-year-old Afghan asylum-seeker who attacked people with an ax and knife on a train in southern Germany, making a statement in Pashto while brandishing a knife. (Militant video via AP)
This still image taken from an undated video posted on The Aamaq news agency, which is affiliated to the Islamic State group, purports to show a 17-year-old Afghan asylum-seeker who attacked people with an ax and knife on a train in southern Germany, making a statement in Pashto while brandishing a knife. (Militant video via AP)

De Maiziere had said the teenager was believed to be a “lone wolf” who appeared to have been “inspired” by IS but was not a member of the jihadist network.

The train rampage triggered calls by politicians in Bavaria to impose an upper limit on the number of refugees coming into Germany, which accepted a record 1.1 million migrants and refugees last year.

German President Joachim Gauck said he was horrified by the “murderous attack,” while Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere, who was on a flight to New York when the shooting began, said he will return to Germany.

US President Barack Obama and French counterpart Francois Hollande voiced staunch support for their close ally.

“Germany’s one of our closest allies, so we are going to pledge all the support that they may need in dealing with these circumstances,” Obama said, speaking before the nine deaths were confirmed.

“The president of the republic offers his sympathy and support to the German people in this difficult hour,” Hollande said, according to a statement from the presidency.

Austria said it had “significantly” tightened security measures in states sharing a border with Germany and put its elite Cobra police force on high alert.

Echoes of the past

The Munich mall is near the stadium for the 1972 Olympics and the athletes’ village which was the site of the hostage-taking and massacre of Israeli athletes by the Palestinian Black September group during the Games.

The shooting coincides with the fifth anniversary of the massacre of 77 people in Norway by right-wing fanatic Anders Behring Breivik.

Europe has been on alert for terrorism in the wake of a string of attacks in neighboring France and Belgium claimed by the Islamic State jihadist group.

Forensic officers stand near a truck with its windscreen riddled with bullets, that plowed through a crowd of revelers who'd gathered to watch the fireworks in the French resort city of Nice, southern France, Friday, July 15, 2016. (AP Photo/Claude Paris)
Forensic officers stand near a truck with its windscreen riddled with bullets, that plowed through a crowd of revelers who’d gathered to watch the fireworks in the French resort city of Nice, southern France, Friday, July 15, 2016. (AP Photo/Claude Paris)

The mall shooting occurred just eight days after 31-year-old Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel used a truck to mow down 84 people, including children, in the French Riviera city of Nice.

It was the third major attack on French soil in the past 18 months.

In March, IS claimed suicide bombings at Brussels airport and a city metro station that left 32 people dead.

In May, a mentally unstable 27-year-old man carried out a knife attack on a regional train in Bavaria, killing one person and injuring three others.

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