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Several people shot dead at Hamburg Jehovah's Witness hall

Published March 9, 2023last updated March 10, 2023

A shooting occurred at a Jehovah's Witnesses hall in Hamburg, Germany's second-largest city. Eight people, including the shooter, died of gunshot wounds and a number of others were injured, according to police.

Heavily armed police inspect the area near a Jehovah's Witness church
Police were deployed to inspect the area surrounding the Jehova's Witness hallImage: Daniel Reinhardt/AFP/Getty Images

More information on the rampage at the Jehovah's Witness Kingdom Hall in Hamburg is available by clicking here

Eight people were killed and others were injured during a shooting Thursday in the German city of Hamburg, police said, adding that the suspected shooter was among the eight dead.

What do we know so far?

The shooting took place at the Jehovah's Witnesses Kingdom Hall in the Gross Borstel district at around 9 p.m. local time (0800 UTC/GMT).

"The dead all have gunshot wounds," a police spokesperson said.

Police were alerted to the incident at about 9:15 p.m. and arrived at the scene quickly because they were "coincidentally very, very near," a spokesperson said.

Police said the background and potential motive behind the shooting which occurred during a Jehovah's Witnesses event, were unclear.

Police spokesperson Holger Vehren that after officers arrived and found people with apparent gunshot wounds on the ground floor, they heard a shot from an upper floor and found a fatally wounded person upstairs.

That individual may have been the shooter, Vehren said, adding that there was no indication a shooter was on the run. He said it appeared likely that the perpetrator was either in the building or among the dead.

Police did not need to use their firearms, Vehren said.

"According to the current state of affairs, we assume that there is one perpetrator," Hamburg police later said on Twitter.

Multiple gunshots heard

Two onlookers told the German n-tv television channel that they heard 12 gunshots. A student who lives nearby told Germany's DPA news agency there were four periods of shooting.

"There were always several shots in these periods, roughly at intervals of 20 seconds to a minute," the student said.

The city-state's Interior Senator, Andy Grote, said special forces were deployed to secure the area.

Residents living nearby were initially warned not to leave their homes amid the ongoing operation, but they were later told there was no longer a threat in the area.

Police at the scene of the crime in Hamburg
Special forces were deployed at the Jehovah's Witnesses Kingdom HallImage: Jonas Walzberg/dpa/picture alliance

'Brutal act of violence' 

The Jehovah's Witnesses in Germany association issued a statement saying, "The religious community is deeply saddened by the horrific attack on its members at the Kingdom Hall in Hamburg after a religious service."

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz called the shooting "a brutal act of violence" and tweeted saying, "My thoughts are with them and their loved ones."

Several people were killed when shots were fired at a Jehovah's Witnesses event
The Jehovah's Witnesses community in Germany on Friday expressed deep sadness over a "horrific" deadly shooting in HamburgImage: Steven Hutchings/Tnn/dpa/picture alliance

Hamburg Mayor Peter Tschentscher called the incident "shocking."

"I extend my deepest sympathy to the families of the victims," he wrote on Twitter.

"The forces are working at full speed to pursue the perpetrators and clarify the background."

German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser said she was "shocked" by the shooting.

History of Jehovah's Witnesses in Germany

Jehovah's Witnesses is an international Christian denomination established in the United States during the 19th century. Jehovah's Witness followers have their own Bible translation and many limit social interaction with non-believers. The religion's teachings include a belief that the end of the present world is imminent.

In Germany, it boasts a history of over 100 years and presently has over 170,000 members, according to its website. Its worldwide membership stands at about 8.7 million.

Members of this denomination are recognized for their evangelistic activities, such as door-to-door preaching and distribution of religious materials in public places.

During the Nazi regime, Jehovah's Witnesses were persecuted because of their political neutrality.

On January 27, 2017, they were granted legal status in Germany as a major religion, which placed them in the same category as other established religions.

zc, ss/sms (dpa, Reuters, AFP, AP)