Munich police raided an apartment in the German city on Saturday morning, as investigators searched for a motive in the killing of nine people in a shooting spree by a German-Iranian youth who then turned the gun on himself.
Munich police said they are hunting for a motive that might explain why the youth opened fire at the crowded Olympia Einkaufzentrum OEZ mall and a McDonald’s restaurant, killing the nine and wounding 16 others. The media said Munich police named the gunman as Ali Sonboly, the son of a taxi driver.
Officers seized material in the apartment on Dachauer Strasse in the city’s Marxvorstadt district, about 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) from the mall where the gunman went on his rampage a day earlier.
Reuters said that officers used night-vision equipment and dogs during the search of the home.
German newspaper Bild said the apartment belonged to the gunman’s father, who was taken in for questioning, while neighbors described the shooter as “a quiet type.” The 18-year-old was reportedly seen by local residents on Friday, before the attack.
Some 2,300 police from across Germany and neighboring countries were scrambled late Friday when the Bavarian capital declared an “emergency situation” after reports of shots fired near the mall.
Munich police spokesman Peter Beck said Saturday morning that security restrictions have been lifted and public transport is operating as normal.
Beck told The Associated Press that “with regard to the suspect we have to examine everything, but we don’t know yet what triggered the crime.” He said officers are still collecting evidence at the scene.
He declined to confirm that a raid took place, or that the authorities were interviewing the suspect’s father, citing “ongoing police operations.”
Beck said the number of people receiving hospital treatment stood at 16, three of whom were seriously wounded. Security restrictions in the city have been lifted and public transport is operating as normal, he said.
At an address on Dachauer Strasse that was searched by police early Saturday, a neighbor also described the suspect as “very quiet.”
“He only ever said ‘hi’. His whole body language was of somebody who was very shy,” said Stephan, a coffee shop owner who would only give his first name.
“He never came in to the cafe,” he added. “He was just a neighbor and took out the trash but never talked.”
Munich police chief Hubertus Andrae told a news conference early Saturday that the suspect was a dual Iranian-German citizen from Munich and his motive was still “fully unclear.” He said it was too early to label the attack an act of terrorism; earlier police said they had no indication of Islamic extremism.
“The question of terrorism or a rampage is tied to motive, and we don’t know the motive,” Andrae said. Iran has condemned the attack.
Police gave a “cautious all clear” in the pre-dawn hours Saturday, more than seven hours after the attack began and brought much of the city to a standstill as all public transit systems were shut down amid a massive manhunt. They said a body found near the scene was that of the shooter and he appeared to have acted alone and killed himself as he fled.
Andrae said the suspect’s body was found about 2 1/2 hours after the attack and was determined to be the shooter based on witness statements and closed circuit television footage of the attack. The shooter, whose name wasn’t released, was not previously known to police and there was no evidence of any links to terrorist organizations, Andrae said.
“We can’t question the suspect so this is all a little more difficult,” he said.
A cell phone video posted online showed the suspect dressed in black standing on a rooftop parking area of the mall yelling back and forth with the person filming, saying at one point “I’m German” and eventually firing shots. Andrae said police believe the video is genuine.
Witnesses had reported seeing three men with firearms near the mall, but Andrae said two other people who fled the area were investigated but had “nothing to do with the incident.”
The police chief said the nine fatalities included young people, and that children were among the 16 wounded, three of whom were in critical condition.
— Sky News (@SkyNews) July 23, 2016
After gunfire broke out at the mall, one of Munich’s largest, the city sent a smartphone alert declaring an “emergency situation” and telling people to stay indoors, while all rail, subway and trolley service was halted in the city.
It was the third major act of violence against civilians in Western Europe in eight days. The previous attacks, in the French resort city of Nice and on the train in Bavaria, were claimed by the Islamic State group.
The attack started shortly before 6 p.m. at a McDonald’s across the street from the mall, which was filled with people doing their weekend shopping. As dozens of shots rang out, terrified shoppers ran from the scene, some carrying babies and pushing strollers.
Video obtained by The Associated Press from German news agency NonstopNews showed two bodies with sheets draped over them not far from the fast food restaurant. Another video posted online showed a gunman emerging from the door of the McDonald’s, raising what appeared to be a pistol with both hands and aiming at people on the sidewalk, firing as they fled in terror.
Witness Luan Zequiri said he was in the mall when the shooting began and “there was a really loud scream,” he told German broadcaster n-tv.
He said he saw only one attacker, who yelled an anti-foreigner slur and was wearing jack boots and a backpack.
“I looked in his direction and he shot two people on the stairs,” Zequiri said. He said he hid in a shop, then ran outside when the coast was clear and saw bodies of the dead and wounded on the ground.
Germany’s Interior Ministry said Munich police had set up a hotline for concerned citizens. Residents of Munich opened their doors to people seeking shelter using the Twitter hashtag #opendoor.
Germany’s interior minister cut short his holiday in the United States to go back to Berlin late Friday to meet with security officials.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel was being regularly briefed on the attack, said her chief of staff, Peter Altmaier. She was to convene her security council on Saturday morning to discuss the attack.
“All that we know and can say right now is that it was a cruel and inhumane attack,” Altmaier said on German public channel ARD. “We can’t rule out that there are terrorist links. We can’t confirm them, but we are investigating along those lines too.”
Altmaier noted that Friday was the fifth anniversary of the massacre in Oslo, Norway, by a far-right extremist who killed 77 people, 69 of them at a youth summer camp.
“You can only have absolute security in an absolute surveillance state, and nobody wants that, it would be the opposite of our free western European way of life,” he said. “But, and this became clear again today, we can’t talk down this danger. It’s a danger that many countries are exposed, especially in the west, and that’s why it’s important to give our security agencies the instruments they need.”
Police responded in large numbers to the mall in the northern part of Munich, near the city’s Olympic Stadium in the Moosach district of the Bavarian capital. In all there were 2,300 officers involved, including the elite GSG9, and SWAT teams from other German states and from neighboring Austria.
It was also not far from where Palestinian attackers opened fire in the Olympic Village in 1972, killing 11 Israeli athletes and a police officer. The GSG9 anti-terrorism unit was created after that attack, though the city saw another one in 1980, when 13 people were killed and more than 200 injured at the city’s annual Oktoberfest in a bombing blamed on a student with ties to a neo-Nazi group.
It was the second attack in Germany in less than a week. On Monday, a 17-year-old Afghan wounded four people in an ax-and-knife attack on a regional train near the Bavarian city of Wuerzburg, and another woman outside as he fled. All survived, although one man from the train remains in life-threatening condition. The attacker was shot and killed by police.
The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the train attack, but authorities have said the teen likely acted alone.
Gun attacks in Germany are uncommon. Firearm ownership is widespread but they are strictly regulated, with purchasers first having to take training courses in order to be granted a permit to own one. Many types of firearms are banned.