Addressing reporters Thursday, North Rhine-Westphalia's (NRW) Interior Minister Herbert Reul spoke of "shocking images," witnessed in the aftermath of a mass shootout in the western German city of Duisburg.
The incident, which erupted shortly before 9:00 p.m. (19:00 UTC) Wednesday evening in Duisburg's northern Hamborn neighborhood, involved between 80 and 100 individuals from the Hell's Angels motorcycle gang and a Turkish-Arab crime gang that authorities did not name.
Interior Minister Reul said police were on the scene within four minutes of receiving emergency calls. It is unclear what precipitated the incident, but police say they recovered at least 19 shell casings fired from 9mm handguns at the scene.
Four individuals were injured, two seriously. Fifteen have been arrested.
Police also carried out house searches through the night, though they say the individuals and their families being sought had fled their homes before special forces officers arrived.
Reul, up for reelection, says 'Clan crime is not a PR invention'
Reul told reporters, "Last night clearly shows how important it is that we stay on the ball with this problem. Clan crime is not a PR invention. It is a major problem that terrifies people, especially here in the Ruhr Valley. Keeping quiet about it isn't a solution."
A 15-person homicide squad has begun an investigation into the incident.
Duisburg's new Police Chief Alexander Dierselhuis, known as a crime clan expert, told reporters, "Duisburg hasn't seen incidents like this for a long time."
"We have various videos, some of very good quality, so we hope we will be able to investigate beyond the 15 suspects [currently in custody]," said Dierselhuis.
The chief, who took over the job on April 1, said he didn't expect further escalations: "At this point in our investigation there isn't much to suggest that. Bringing violence like this out into the streets is bad for the business of organized crime."
Duisburg State Prosecutor Christina Wehner said "perpetrators shouldn't feel safe," noting that several experienced prosecutors had already been assigned to the case.
Police and investigators secured the crime scene Wednesday evening, combing it for clues and evidence as well as taking drone footage to create a "comprehensive 3-D image" in order to reconstruct the incident. Police remained at the scene on Thursday.
Authorities have also set up an online website where individuals can anonymously submit evidence. Investigators say they are "especially interested in photos and video footage," some of which were circulating online on Thursday.
Gritty Duisburg no stranger to violent crime
A poor, industrial city, Duisburg is no stranger to violent crime. In the past, deadly clashes between various biker gangs have led to gruesome scenes, with individuals being shot dead in the streets and tattooed body parts showing up the in city's industrial harbor.
Wednesday's shootout comes just 10 days before North Rhine-Westphalia's state elections, leading Social Democratic Party (SPD) opposition members such Sven Wolf to ask, "Shootouts in residential neighborhoods: Is that what the CDU (Christian Democratic Union) and Interior Minister Reul mean when they say that NRW has gotten safer?"
js/msh (AFP, dpa)