German synagogue is attacked on holy day; 2 dead nearby | TribLIVE.com
U.S./World

German synagogue is attacked on holy day; 2 dead nearby

Associated Press
1782878_web1_1782878-113468b354bb4661b45dcf9579e49119
AP
Police officers cross a wall at a crime scene in Halle, Germany, Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2019.
1782878_web1_1782878-c8c33f3e13d14b95b34d770c6251e498
AP
Police officers are seen at a crime scene in Halle, Germany, Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2019.
1782878_web1_1782878-0642d44e22c7408c9bf6482b46522b84
AP
Police officers walk past an empty cartridge in Halle, Germany, Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2019.
1782878_web1_1782878-8fd347e33cf74ef39053995b22048f24
AP
A police officer walks in front of a kebab grill in Halle, Germany, Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2019.

HALLE, Germany — A heavily armed assailant ranting about Jews tried to force his way into a synagogue in Germany on Yom Kippur, Judaism’s holiest day, then shot two people to death outside the building in an attack Wednesday that was livestreamed on a popular gaming site.

The attacker shot at the door of the synagogue in the city of Halle but did not get in as 70 to 80 people inside were observing the holy day, a local Jewish leader said.

“The root of all problems are the Jews!” the attacker shouted in English before the shooting, according to the head of the SITE Intelligence Group, who wrote on Twitter that 35 minutes of footage of the attacks were posted online. Rita Katz said it showed the attacker shooting a woman in the street after failing to enter the synagogue, then entering a business and killing another person before fleeing.

Germany’s top security official, Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, said authorities must assume that it was an anti-Semitic attack, and said prosecutors believe there may be a right-wing extremist motive to it. He said several people were injured.

The filming of Wednesday’s attack echoed another horrific shooting halfway around the world when a far-right white supremacist in March killed 51 people at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand and livestreamed much of the attack on Facebook. That massacre drew strong criticism of social media giants for not immediately finding and blocking such a violent video.

Video of Wednesday’s attack was livestreamed on the gaming site Twitch, which said it had “worked with urgency” to remove it. Twitch said it would permanently suspend any account found to be posting or reposting “content of this abhorrent act.”

The attack was the third to target a synagogue in a year, following attacks in the United States on synagogues in Pittsburgh and Poway, California.

Police said in a tweet early Wednesday afternoon that “the suspected perpetrators” had fled in a car after the attacks and quickly reported that one person had been arrested. Officers spread out in force across Halle, a city of 240,000, urging residents to stay at home.

Several hours later, police said there was no longer an “acute” danger to the city and residents could go back into the streets. They gave no details about the person who had been arrested or specify why their assessment had changed, but the news agency dpa and the Bild newspaper cited unidentified security sources as saying the evidence points to a lone assailant.

News magazine Der Spiegel, which didn’t cite its sources, said the suspect is a 27-year-old man from Saxony-Anhalt state, where Halle is located.

Federal prosecutors, who in Germany handle cases involving suspected terrorism or national security, took over the investigation into the attack in Halle.

A video clip broadcast by regional public broadcaster MDR showed a man in a helmet and an olive-colored top getting out of a car and firing four shots from behind the vehicle from a long-barreled gun. It wasn’t clear what he was shooting at.

Pictures from the scene showed a body lying in the street behind a police cordon, opposite the synagogue, which was about 30 meters (yards), dpa reported.

The head of Halle’s Jewish community, Max Privorozki, told Der Spiegel that a surveillance camera at the entrance of the synagogue showed a person trying to break into the building while there were 70 or 80 people inside.

“The assailant shot several times at the door and also threw several Molotov cocktails, firecrackers or grenades to force his way in,” he said. “But the door remained closed — God protected us. The whole thing lasted perhaps five to 10 minutes.”

Dpa quoted unidentified security sources as saying that an assailant laid home-made explosives outside the synagogue.

A witness interviewed on n-tv television said he had been in a kebab shop when a man with a helmet and a military jacket threw something that looked like a grenade, which bounced off the doorframe. Conrad Roessler said the man then shot into the shop at least once.

“All the customers next to me ran, of course I did too. I think there were five or six of us in there,” Roessler said. “The man behind me probably died.”

“I hid in the toilet,” he said. “The others looked for the back entrance. I didn’t know if there was one. I locked myself quietly in this toilet, and wrote to my family that I love them, and waited for something to happen.”

Police then came into the shop, he said.

Synagogues are often protected by police in Germany. Security was stepped up at synagogues in other cities after the shooting in Halle.

German officials rushed to condemn the attack.

“Shots being fired at a synagogue on Yom Kippur, the festival of reconciliation, hits us in the heart,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said on Twitter. “We must all act against anti-Semitism in our country.”

Vice Chancellor Olaf Scholz said that “all our country’s citizens of Jewish faith can be sure that we are with them with our whole heart and we will give them all the security that is possible.”

The U.S. Embassy in Berlin said “today’s attack is an attack on all of us, and the perpetrators must be held accountable.”

Police said shots were also fired Wednesday in Landsberg, about early 10 miles from Halle but it wasn’t clear whether the two situations were related.

The European Parliament held a moment of silence at the start of its session Wednesday to mark the unfolding situation in Halle.

Manfred Weber, the German leader of the center-right EPP group in the parliament, declared that “anti-Semites and anybody who wants to question freedom of belief are not just our opponents, they are our enemies.”

Categories: News | Top Stories | World
TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.