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Germany shootings: 'We won't be intimidated'

February 20, 2020

Prosecutors say a man with a "deeply racist mentality" is responsible for shootings at two hookah bars in the town of Hanau near Frankfurt. Follow the developments live.

Security forces standing outside of a kiosk near the scene of a shooting
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/U. Anspach

Attacks at two hookah bars in the city of Hanau left nine people dead and four injured.

- The 43-year-old suspected perpetrator was later found dead at his home along with the body of his mother.

- Five Turkish nationals are among the victims of the attack. 

- Federal prosecutors say the suspect, a German national, had a "deeply racist mentality."

All updates are in Universal Coordinated Time (UTC)

23:51 The SPD’s Boris Pistorius, interior minister for the state of Lower Saxony said that the AfD were partially to blame for the rise in right-wing attacks in Germany.

"Of course there is a direct link between the AfD getting stronger and the increase in right wing violence," he told Friday's edition of the Osnabrücker Zeitung. "Foreign citizens' value as human beings is being talked down. That is so dangerous, because it can motivate certain people to commit crimes. It is a fatal unraveling of inhibitions, and the AfD bears some responsibility for this."

23:13 CDU politician Thorsten Frei told Friday's edition of newspaper Die Welt that he wants Germany's domestic intelligence agency, the Bundesverfassungsschutz, to be given more powers. He said that the agency should be able to access private messages on encrypted services, such as WhatsApp. He suggested having increased surveillance of electronic gadgets like computers and smartphones.

He also said his party would consider tightening German gun laws, to address the issue of security in the country.

22:52 Wednesday's events in Hanau have cast a pall on the opening of the 70th Berlinale film festival. A moment of silence was held to commemorate the victims. 

Filmmakers, actors, and others featuring in the festival expressed shock and fear at the attacks. 

"Our history should teach us that we can't allow nationalist, racist and xenophobic elements to define our image," said Burhan Qurbani, who directed the film "Berlin Alexanderplatz." Qurbani is a German citizen whose parents were refugees from Afghanistan.

The audience at the Berlinale during a minute's silence in memorial of the shooting in Hanau.
The annual Berlinale is Germany's largest film festivalImage: picture-alliance/dpa/M. Kappeler

19:18 The chairman of the Kurdish Community in Germany, a national association, has said that people with a migration background are feeling increasingly insecure in Germany.

"The events in Hanau have ultimately led to people no longer feeling safe at all," said chairman Ali Ertan Toprak.

Toprak said the Kurdish community expects concrete action from the state. "We must also use police forces to combat right-wing extremism in our country," he said.

18:45 United Nations chief Antonio Guterres was "appalled" by the attack in Hanau, a UN spokesperson has said.

"The secretary general stands in solidarity with Germany and he reiterates his own call for all of us to renew our promise to end racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, anti-Semitism and Muslim hatred," spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters in New York. 

18:21 Racism has a negative impact on the German economy, the president of the Association of German Chambers of Industry and Commerce has said. 

"Xenophobic tendencies have a negative impact on Germany's image in every sense — and, understandably, scare away good labor," the association's president Eric Schweitzer told German daily the Rheinischen Post

Germany is in urgent need of skilled foreign labor, he said. 

18:00 DW's Editor-in-Chief Ines Pohl has called for greater political action against hate that she says has reached "the heart of the country." Read her views here. 

17:41 Ending his speech at the vigil in Hanau, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said, "We stand together, we hold together, we want to live together, and we show again and again that it is the strongest measure against hate."

17:38 "Today is the day we must show that we will hold together. We won't be intimidated." -German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

17:36 German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier is speaking now. "I stand on the side of people who are threatened with hate and violence," he said. 

17:35 "We hold together, and everyone who thinks they can tear us apart, we say to them: We will never give a millimeter for this free democracy. Not only today, not just in Hanau, but everywhere." -Hesse State Premier Volker Bouffier.

17:34 Hesse State Premier Volker Bouffier is speaking in Hanau. "We must do everything so that everyone in this country can live without fear. We won't be split apart. We belong together," he said in his speech. 

17:31 The vigil in Hanau has begun with a speech from the city's mayor Klaus Kaminsky. 

"Hanau is proud of the fact that, for centuries, people with different beliefs and different national backgrounds have lived peacefully together day after day."

17:17 In Berlin, mourners observed a minute of silence and formed a human chain. 

16:57 The German solidarity alliance Unteilbar has organized last-minute vigils to take place in dozens of cities around Germany tonight. Many are beginning now, with more memorial services due to take place on Saturday.   

16:51 In light of the events, DW had a look at right-wing terrorism in recent years in Germany. Read more about the trend here

16:25 German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier has arrived in Hanau. He is set to take part in a vigil after visiting the scene of the crime.

16:18 The suspect, who German authorities are now referring to as Tobias R., was a member of a local shooting club, where he trained up to three times a week, the president of the SV Diana Bergen-Enkheim shooting club in the district of Bergen-Enkheim has confirmed. 

"He was totally inconspicuous," President Claus Schmidt said. "There wasn't the slightest hint of racism or xenophobia, not even a weird joke."

16:12 Speaking in televised interview with DW, Konstantin Kuhle, the parliamentary group leader of the business-friendly Free Democrats, said: "We have to realize: this is not the first right-wing terror attack that Germany has experienced. There have been a number of cases in the past few months."

"We cannot underestimate the effect such attacks have on Muslim citizens and communities," he continued. "These people no longer feel safe in Germany." 

16:06 There are early reports coming in from London that a white man stabbed a leader at a prominent North London mosque. Currently, there are no indications that the incident is related to the events in Hanau.

15:44 The alleged shooter was granted a gun license in 2013 and registered ownership of a weapon one year later, according to information from regional authorities in the Main-Kinzig district of Gelnhause in Hesse. 

Two weapons are currently registered to the license, which was last reviewed in 2019. Such reviews include measures such as checking whether the weapons are stored properly. Read more about Germany's gun ownership laws here.

15:40 The suspect did not have a criminal record, the federal prosecutor's office in Karlsruhe has said, nor were than any criminal proceedings in process against him. 

Initial investigations have revealed that the alleged perpetrator's online activity included videos and documents that provide "serious evidence indicating a racist background of the crime," the attorney general has said. 

15:32 Turkish Ambassador to Germany Ali Kemal Aydin said it is a "dark day for Germany."

"We are suffering," he said, speaking with Turkish-language broadcaster CNN Türk. German authorities have said that five of the victims were Turkish nationals. 

15:30 Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz condemned the Hanau attack in a statement made from Brussels. 

"It was a terrible, right-wing terror attack that took place in Germany," he said. "It also shows us that it is important that we fight against all forms of radical ideologies in Europe."

15:15 The Committee of Internal Affairs of the Bundestag, Germany's lower house of parliament, said it will hold a special meeting next Thursday to discuss the attack in Hanau.

15:05 Turkish state broadcaster TRT World shared a video with a person reported to be a victim of the attack as he speaks from a hospital bed about the moment the perpetrator opened fire. 

Muhammed B. said he was eating a meal with around 10 other people when the shooting began. A nearby wall helped him avoid sustaining fatal injuries.

"The guy beneath me had a hole in his throat. He said, 'Brother, I can't feel my tongue, I can't breathe.' I said to him, 'Brother, say the confession of faith.' Then he yelled, 'Everyone say the confession of faith.' Then it was quiet. No one answered. Just he and I. And then we didn't see anything anymore, whether [the shooter] was gone or not."

14:44 Chairman of Germany's Federal Criminal Police Office Sebastian Fiedler said there are "significant parallels" between the attacks in Hanau and past shootings seen in Halle, Germany and Christchurch, New Zealand

All cases have involved people "who cling to crude, far-right, racist ideologies or even ideologies they've made up themselves," he told German broadcaster SWR. 

14:40 The victims were between the ages of 21 and 44, the attorney general has said. The group was made up of both German and foreign nationals. 

14:35  The German Shooting and Archery Federation has said they are "stunned" by the events in Hanau, but that there is no need for greater gun control in Germany.

14:30 Along with the nine people who lost their lives in the attack, an additional six were injured, one severely so, the attorney general said. 

14:16 The perpetrator had a "deeply racist mentality," Attorney General Peter Frank has said in a statement. Read here for more about what the investigation has revealed about the suspect thus far. 

14:05 Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, Justice Minister Christina Lambrecht, and Hesse State Premier Volker Bouffier have laid flowers at the scene of the first shooting in Hanau. While the investigation is still ongoing, all signs are pointing to "racist motives" behind the attack, Seehofer said. "Racism is poison," he added, echoing Merkel's statement from earlier. 

14:00 Germany's attorney general, Peter Frank, is issuing a statement on the investigation thus far. 

13:47 All public buildings have been ordered to fly their flags at half-mast, said Interior Minister Horst Seehofer from the scene of the shooting.

13:40  Nine of the 10 victims in Wednesday night's shooting were of foreign descent, law enforcement sources say.

13:00 European Commission President and former German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen tweeted that "xenophobia and racism has no place in Europe. The appalling act in Hanau fundamentally goes against all basic values that matter to the EU, and which we are rightly proud of. We stand united together against those who want to divide our society with hate and violence."

12:43 Turkish state news agency Anadolu reported that five Turkish nationals were among those killed in the shootings. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said: "I believe the German authorities will endeavor to shine a light on all aspects of the attack."

A Bosnian and a Bulgarian citizen also lost their lives in the attack, their respective foreign ministers confirmed. 

12:39 A demonstration against right-wing hate and extremism will be held in Berlin at 6 p.m. local time (17:00 UTC) on Thursday. 

12:34 German newspaper Bild reported that one of the victims was a 35-year-old mother of two. She was reportedly pregnant when she was killed, according to Bild information.

12:31 Nils Duquet, a senior researcher at the Flemish Peace Institute, told DW: "It's clear that there seems to be a problem with public shootings in Germany. You had this Rot am See shooting a few weeks ago, and the Halle shooting a few months ago.

"What police forces have been noticing across Europe is that they fear that right-wing extremism is on the rise, and that these people can also have access to guns both legally and illegally. That raises the alarm." 

11:59 The double shooting took place at hookah bars about 2.5 kilometers apart.

11:43 DW understands that German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier will travel to Hanau on Thursday to attend a vigil.

11:35 Hesse State Premier Volker Bouffier spoke of a "deep incision" in Hanau and that "wounds had been ripped." Addressing minority communities, he said: "we are on your side, and that goes for everyone in our country — it does not matter where you come from or what you look like."

11:23 People have begun placing flowers and candles outside the Midnight hookah bar, the site of the first attack.

Flowers and candles are placed near the Midnight Shisha bar after a shooting in Hanau
Image: Reuters/R. Orlowski

11:18 German Chancellor Angela Merkel gave a short statement on the shootings, calling racism and hate "a poison" to society.

"It is too early to say what the background of this incident is but we will do our utmost to explain what happened."

Merkel reiterated that the attacker is understood to have had far-right and racist motives.

'Today is a very sad day for our country'

11:00 Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, chair of Merkel's conservative CDU party, on Twitter said she was "stunned and sad." 

"Violence driven by right-wing extremism must not be left alone, we must stand united against it," she added.

10:51 The four biggest Islamic associations in Germany called for more to be done in the fight against right-wing extremism. The Coordination Council of Muslims (KRM) said they had requested for months that there needed to be "a clear stand against Islamophobia."

10:47 The Confederation of the Kurdistan Community in Germany said: "We are angry, because the politically responsible in this country have not taken a decisive stand against right-wing networks and right-wing terrorism." 

The group said the murder of politician Walter Lübcke, the terror attack in Halle, and the existence of the National Socialist Underground were all examples of state politics that have a "blind spot" for right-wing terrorism.

10:45 French President Emmanuel Macron expressed his "deep sadness" and said he "stands by Chancellor Merkel in this fight for our values and the protection of our democracy."

10:42 German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said that if initial suspicions turned out to be true, the "horrific crime in Hanau would be the third far-right murder attack in Germany the space of a year. Far-right terrorism is a threat to our country once again ... Democracy must stand up against the enemies of freedom." 

10:38 President of the German Central Council of Jews, Josef Schuster, said: "Too long has the danger from growing far-right wing in Germany been trivialized and neglected." 

"Police and the justice system appear to often have a blind spot in their right eye," he added, saying this is "having its revenge now."

10:32 Yanki Pürsün, a lawmaker in the Hesse state parliament, told DW's Turkish service that three of the victims were of Turkish descent and five had a North African background.

10:29 German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said: "I learned about the terrorist act in Hanau with horror. My deepest sympathy and condolences go out to the victims and their relatives. I wish a speedy recovery to those injured." 

"I stand on the side of all people who are threatened by acts of racism. They are not alone. The large majority of people in Germany condemn this act and every form of racism, hate and violence,"  added Steinmeier, speaking from Berlin.

10:12 European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, Germany's former defense minister, tweeted she was "deeply shocked by the tragedy," and sent her "sincerest condolences" to the friends and families of the victims, adding: "We mourn with you today." 

10:08 Security sources say many of the victims were of foreign descent. The shootings took place in an area with a large Kurdish community.

09:59 Hesse State Premier Volker Bouffier said the shootings had left him "speechless."

09:53 European Council President Charles Michel called the Hanau shootings a "tragedy," just hours before he is due to meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other leaders in Brussels.

"The pointless loss of human lives is a tragedy - irrespective of where it occurs," Michel wrote on Twitter.

09:47 The president of the European Parliament, David Sassoli, also offered his thought to the victims on Twitter. "We stand united against any form of hate and violence."

09:38 Yan San-Pierre, a security expert and counterterrorism advisor, told DW:

"Investigations seem to be moving along a lot faster than in previous cases — like Halle and the Walter Lübcke case and other right wing attacks we have seen in the past few months and years. The fact that the state prosecutor has taken over is already a sign how fast things are moving along."

09:35 "Today is not a day for political debate, therefore the Hesse parliament will not meet today," said the president of the Hesse state parliament, Boris Rhein.

09:27 There will be a public remembrance in Hanau marketplace at 6 p.m. local time (17:00 UTC) on Thursday.

09:19 "There is still no evidence of any further assailants," said Hesse state Interior Minister Peter Beuth. He said the shootings were "an attack on our free and peaceful society."

09:17 The shooting took place in Hanau, a city of 100,000 inhabitants in the state of Hesse, some 25 kilometers (15 miles) east of Frankfurt.

Map of Hanau, Germany

09:11 The Central Council of Muslims in Germany (ZMD) spoke out against the Hanau attack, denouncing it as an "attack on democracy." ZMD secretary-general, Abdassamad El Yazidi, called for authorities and politics to protect migrants and Muslims, in a conversation with DW.

09:00 Germany in November announced extra resources and funding to fight far-right extremism, after a year that saw a politician assassinated and a far-right extremist attack a synagogue on Yom Kippur, Judaism's holiest day of the year.

08:48 Hesse state Interior Minister Peter Beuth confirmed that there was a possible right-wing extremist link. "From what we know so far a xenophobic motive is the most likely," he said. A homepage linked to the attacker pointed to right-wing views held by the suspect. 

08:47 DW reporter Rebecca Staudenmaier is reporting from the Hanau. Earlier this morning she spoke to an eyewitness who narrowly missed being caught up in the shooting.

08:45 Justice Minister Christine Lambrecht said on Thursday from Berlin: "It is shocking, how many people were senselessly killed."

08:40 Interior Minister Horst Seehofer will not be attending a meeting on digitalization, according to a spokesperson.

08:40 Hesse state Interior Minister Peter Beuth said the suspect was a 43-year-old German man. The body of the person thought to be his mother, who was 72 years old, was also found.

08:21 Chancellor Angela Merkel has canceled a planned visit to the National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina, in Halle, Saxony-Anhalt. "The Chancellor is being continuously updated on the investigation in Hanau," wrote German government spokesman Steffen Seibert on Twitter.

08:10 Foreign Minister Heiko Maas expressed sympathy for the relatives of the victims. "The terrible events in #Hanau hurts all of us," he tweeted. "Following this terrible night our thoughts are with the dead, their families and relatives. We wish the injured a speedy recovery," added Maas.

08:00 Seibert said on Twitter that "deep condolences go out to the families who are grieving for their dead." 

07:54 German media are reporting that the body found in the same apartment as the suspect was his mother.

07:50 The suspect uploaded a video to YouTube in the days before the attack. The man relayed conspiracy theories in a "message to all Americans" in fluent English. The clip was still visible to view on the platform on Thursday morning. 

07:45 Federal prosecutors announced they would take over the investigation due to the severity of the case. A spokesperson said there were "indications of a far-right motive."

07:40 Police were examining a letter of confession and a video found at the suspect's home. Local media are reporting that this expressed a far-right motive.

07:30 Late on Wednesday night a perpetrator opened fire at a hookah bar in Hanau's downtown, killing three people, before driving to the neighborhood of Kesselstadt and opening fire at a second hookah bar, where five people died.

Authorities sealed off the areas where the shooting took place and later traced the suspect back to his home where they found him dead. Another corpse was also found in the house.

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Kate Martyr
Kate Martyr Editor and video producer at DW's Asia Desk and News Digital
Kristie Pladson
Kristie Pladson Business reporter, editor and moderator with a focus on technology and German economy.@bizzyjourno