A manhunt was underway Friday for a shooter or shooters who opened fire at a shopping mall in Munich, killing at least eight people and seriously wounding several others. The city transit system was shut down, the main train station evacuated and people told to avoid public places.
Police described the shooting rampage at Olympia Einkaufszentrum mall in the north of the city as a suspected terror attack as they hunted three gunmen believed to still be at large.
Police warned of an “acute terror” situation in the locked-down southern German city, which saw panicked shoppers fleeing the mall as armed police roamed the streets in the search for the attackers.
“At the moment no culprit has been arrested,” Munich police said on social media. “The search is taking place at high speed.”
“The shooter or shooters are still on the run” either in or around the mall, police said. The city sent emergency smartphone alerts to tell people to stay indoors.
Residents of the city were offering their homes on social media to people in need of a safe location off the streets, using the hashtag #OffeneTür (Open Door).
— Jelena Vukadinovic (@jelena_v89) July 22, 2016
Shortly after the initial news came in, local officials said there were possibly several locations under attack. These reports have not been confirmed.
Bayrischer Rundfunk reported that shops in the center of Munich had closed with customers inside though police said reports of shots fired at a location downtown had been a false alarm.
— Polizei München (@PolizeiMuenchen) July 22, 2016
“We believe we are dealing with a shooting rampage,” a police spokeswoman told Reuters.
The shooting spree began before 6 p.m. at a McDonald’s restaurant and continued on a nearby street before the gunmen moved into the shopping center, a police spokeswoman said.
The shopping center was surrounded by police and special forces, who were hunting for the attacker. Emergency vehicles were seen in the streets outside, as passers-by looked on.
“There is a major police operation under way in the shopping center,” Munich police said on Twitter, urging people to avoid the area.
“We currently do not know where to find the perpetrators. Watch yourself and avoid public places,” police said in a tweet.
A shocking video appeared to show the shooter opening fire at civilians outside McDonald’s.
Police urged people not to post images or videos of the activities of security forces. “Don’t support the attackers!” a tweet said.
Armin Fritz, a reporter for public radio B5, said the entire public transport system in Munich was shut down.
The mall is located near the Olympic stadium used in the 1972 games, where Palestinian terrorists abducted and later killed 11 Israeli athletes.
“Many shots were fired, I can’t say how many but it’s been a lot,” a mall employee told the local NTV, according to the Guardian.
“All the people from outside came streaming into the store and I only saw one person on the ground who was so severely injured that he definitely didn’t survive.
“We have no further information, we’re just staying in the back in the storage rooms.”
A video posted online purported to show civilians fleeing the scene of the attack.
It was the third strike against civilian targets in Europe in just over a week, and followed an ax rampage by a teenager on a train in the same German state of Bavaria on Monday and the truck attack in the French city of Nice on July 14.
A teenager went on an ax rampage on a regional train near Wuerzburg on Monday, injuring five people, two of them critically. One victim is still fighting for his life, the hospital treating him said Friday.
Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said the teenager was believed to be a “lone wolf” attacker who appeared to have been “inspired” by the Islamic State group but was not a member of the jihadist network.
“This is perhaps a case that lies somewhere between a crazed rampage and terrorism,” de Maiziere told reporters.
He said investigators were still trying to determine the true identity of the 17-year-old who was shot dead by police following the train attack.
The Islamic State group released a video Tuesday purportedly featuring the assailant announcing in Pashto he would carry out an “operation” in Germany, and presenting himself as a “soldier of the caliphate.”
Security service sources think he might have pretended to be Afghan on arrival in Germany in 2015 in order to have a better chance of securing asylum, ZDF public television reported.
Authorities on Tuesday found a hand-painted IS flag and what they called a suicide letter addressed to his father among the attacker’s belongings.
Federal prosecutors said in a statement they would probe the extent of the teenager’s links with IS.
Locals described the assailant as “calm and even-keeled” and a “devout Muslim who did not appear to be radical or a fanatic”, according to Joachim Herrmann, interior minister of Bavaria state.
Police, however, said he wrote in the letter that the world’s Muslims “must defend themselves.
“Now pray for me that I can take revenge on non-believers, pray for me that I can get to heaven,” the note said.
Authorities said he shouted “Allahu akbar” (God is greatest) three times as he rampaged through the carriage.