The suspect in an attack on a German synagogue on Judaism’s holiest day of the year was brought before a judge at the Federal Supreme Court in the city of Karlsruhe on Thursday, ahead of expected murder charges against him.
Suspect Stephan Balliet was seen being taken from a helicopter to a vehicle under heavy guard on Thursday afternoon. He had a bandage on his neck, apparently covering a gunshot wound after he was shot by police during his arrest, and appeared to be restrained at the waist and feet.
The alleged shooter faces two counts of murder and nine counts of attempted murder for what prosecutors have described as a far-right “terror attack.”
A judge placed him under arrest in pre-trial custody.
“What we experienced yesterday was terror,” said Peter Frank, the chief federal prosecutor. “The suspect, Stephan B., aimed to carry out a massacre in the synagogue in Halle.”
The assailant on Wednesday tried but failed to force his way into the synagogue on Yom Kippur as around 80 people were inside.
He then shot and killed a woman in the street outside and a man at a nearby kebab shop.
A German security official said the suspect was caught about 90 minutes after his assault started as he abandoned a stolen taxi following an accident involving a truck.
Holger Stahlknecht, the interior minister of Saxony-Anhalt state, said the suspect managed to drive out of Halle after killing two people and following an exchange of shots with police that left him with a neck wound.
He abandoned his car in a small nearby town, where he shot and wounded two other people. He continued southward in a stolen taxi, and was arrested as he left that vehicle following the accident. Police also seized a webcam in the car that he had used to film his attack.
Stahlknecht said the suspect wasn’t on authorities’ radar before Wednesday.
He said police arrived at the synagogue seven minutes after they were alerted to the shooting, but acknowledged that in such a situation “seven minutes feel like seven weeks.”
Frank said that the suspect had around four kilograms (nearly nine pounds) of explosives in his car.
He said his weapons were “apparently homemade” and the explosives in the car were built into “numerous devices.”
Frank said investigators “face a lot of questions,” among them how the suspect became radicalized, how he acquired weapons and explosives or obtained materials to build them, and whether anyone else encouraged him or knew about his plan.
The suspect, who livestreamed the attack on a popular gaming site while ranting in English about Jews and posted a “manifesto” online before embarking on it, “wanted to create a worldwide effect” and encourage others to imitate him, the prosecutor added.
Investigators have yet to determine how the suspect was radicalized, how he decided to carry out the attack, how he got hold of the material to build weapons and explosives, whether he had supporters or whether anyone else encouraged him or knew about his plan, he said. Prosecutors will have to sift through his communications and his activities on the darknet, a part of the internet hidden from public view.
Officials didn’t give details of the victims, who were killed outside the synagogue and in a nearby kebab shop.
Synagogues are often protected by police in Germany and have been for many years amid concerns over far-right and Islamic extremism. There has been rising concern lately about both anti-Semitism and right-wing extremism in the country.
Germany’s domestic intelligence agency says the number of anti-Semitic acts of violence rose to 48 last year from 21 the previous year. It also said the number of far-right extremists rose by 100 to 24,100 people last year, with more than half of them considered potentially violent.