Far-right motive suspected in German shooting attack that left at least 9 dead
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Far-right motive suspected in German shooting attack that left at least 9 dead

Federal agencies take over probe after reports that gunman who attacked two hookah bars may have left confession letter, video of extremist views

A police officer stands guard near the scene in front of a restaurant after a shooting in central Hanau, Germany, February 20, 2020. Eight people were killed in shootings in the German city of Hanau the previous evening, authorities said. (Boris Roessler/dpa via AP)
A police officer stands guard near the scene in front of a restaurant after a shooting in central Hanau, Germany, February 20, 2020. Eight people were killed in shootings in the German city of Hanau the previous evening, authorities said. (Boris Roessler/dpa via AP)

Federal prosecutors said Thursday they were taking charge of the investigation into a mass shooting in the German city of Hanau that left 11 people dead, including the suspect, amid reports that he may have had a far-right motive.

The Federal Prosecutors Office in Karlsruhe, which handles serious crimes, said it planned to hold a news conference later Thursday.

The announcement comes after the German daily Bild reported that the shooter, who was found dead at his home shortly after the shooting, had expressed extreme right-wing political opinions in a confession letter found at his home in Hanau.

German news agency dpa reported that police are examining a video the suspect may have posted online several days earlier in which he details a conspiracy theory about child abuse in the United States. The authenticity of the video couldn’t immediately be verified.

Forensic investigators at the scene after a shooting in central Hanau, Germany, February 20, 2020. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)

Another report claims he had made a video confessing to the shooting, but police would not confirm the claim.

Nine people were killed at two hookah bars on the overnight between Wednesday and Thursday. Police later said they found the suspected shooter and another person dead at a house not far from the second bar. Hookah lounges are places where people gather to smoke flavored tobacco from Middle Eastern water pipes.

A spokesman for Hanau prosecutors, Markus Jung, confirmed the death toll but declined to comment on the reports of videos or provide details of the suspect or victims.

“We don’t believe there were further attackers,” Jung told The Associated Press.

Officers sealed off and searched the apartment in Hanau’s Kesselstadt district, near the scene of one of the shootings, after following up witness statements on a getaway car. Police said work to confirm the identities of the two bodies at the home was still underway, and they couldn’t immediately give details either on them or the identities of the victims of the earlier shootings.

“Thoughts this morning are with the people of Hanau, in whose midst this terrible crime was committed,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman said on Twitter.

“Deep sympathy for the affected families, who are grieving for their dead,” the spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said. “We hope with those wounded that they will soon recover.”

Merkel called off a planned visit to a university in Halle. Halle was the site of a deadly anti-Semitic attack on Yom Kippur last year. A man expressing anti-Jewish views tried to shoot his way into a synagogue, failed and killed two passers-by 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.

Earlier Thursday, police said a dark vehicle was seen leaving the location of the first attack and another shooting was reported at a scene about 2.5 kilometers (1.5 miles) away.

A special forces officer guards the road in front of a house as police search the site after a mass shooting nearby, in Hanau, Germany, February 20, 2020. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)

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 center-right party who represents Hanau in the German parliament, tweeted that it was “a real horror scenario for us all.”

Hanau is about 20 kilometers (12 miles) east of Frankfurt. It has about 100,000 inhabitants and is in Hesse state.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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