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CRIME

UPDATE: Gunman kills six people in shooting at Jehovah’s Witness centre in Hamburg

A disgruntled former Jehovah's Witness member launched a shooting spree, killing several victims including an unborn baby at the community's centre in the German city of Hamburg, before turning the gun on himself, authorities said Friday

Investigators outside a Jehovah's Witness centre in Hamburg where several people were killed and some injured by gunshots on Thursday night.
Investigators outside a Jehovah's Witness centre in Hamburg where several people were killed and some injured by gunshots on Thursday night. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Daniel Bockwoldt

There were seven victims in total – including an unborn baby. 

Eight other people were wounded, including four seriously, in Thursday evening’s attack, said Hamburg interior minister Andy Grote, calling it “the worst crime in our city’s recent history”.

Police identified the gunman as Philipp F., 35, a former member of the Christian group who left the community about 18 months ago “but apparently not on good terms”.

Investigators were still seeking a motive for the killings, but there was no indication of a terrorist motive in the killings, said a senior prosecutor.

The gunman entered the Kingdom Hall building when around three dozen people were attending a service and another 25 people had joined on livestream.

The first distress calls reached emergency services at 9:04 pm on Thursday, and police forced their way into the Jehovah’s Witness building minutes later.

The police action interrupted the shooting, prompting the attacker to flee to the first floor of the building where he killed himself, said Grote.

“We can assume that (the rapid police action) saved many lives,” he added.

Police had initially said the shooting left eight people dead, but that included the gunman and a seven-month-old foetus of killed in the attack. The woman pregnant with the baby has survived

An anonymous tip-off had been sent to the weapons control authority in January this year, claiming that Philipp F. may have been suffering from an undiagnosed psychological illness and that he had a “particular anger against religious members or against the Jehovah’s Witnesses and his former employer”.

Raids following the shooting on the gunman’s apartment uncovered 15 magazines loaded with 15 bullets each and four further packs of ammunition with about 200 rounds.

READ ALSO: What we know so far about the shooting in Hamburg 

‘Filmed the whole thing’

The Jehovah’s Witnesses in Germany association said it was “deeply saddened by the horrific attack on its members”.

Neighbours recalled hearing multiple shots fired late Thursday.

Hamburg shooting

Police at the crime scene in Hamburg on Thursday evening. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Jonas Walzberg

“Our son filmed the whole thing, he could see quite well from the house,” Bernd Miebach, a 66-year-old business owner, told AFP.

“On the video you can see that someone broke a window, you can hear shots fired and see that someone broke in.”

Police have asked witnesses to come forward and upload any pictures or videos they may have to a special website.

Another resident said police arrived on the scene within “four or five minutes”.

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“We heard shots and we knew something big was happening,” said the woman, who gave only her first name Anetta.

She said she knew the building was used by members of the Jehovah’s Witness community, describing them as “very peaceful, quiet”.

The three-storey building was still cordoned off on Friday with several officers standing outside.

The port city’s mayor, Peter Tschentscher, expressed shock at the shooting.

Sending his sympathies to the victims’ families, he said emergency services were doing their utmost to clarify the situation.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said early on Friday that his thoughts were with the victims and their families.

“Several members of a Jehovah community fell victim to a brutal act of violence last night,” Scholz tweeted. “My thoughts are with them and their loved ones.”

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CRIME

Fugitive far-left militant wanted for decades arrested in Berlin

A German activist of the notorious far-left Red Army Faction (RAF) wanted for more than 30 years for attempted murder and other crimes has been arrested in Berlin, prosecutors said on Tuesday.

Fugitive far-left militant wanted for decades arrested in Berlin

Daniela Klette, 65, was part of a notorious fugitive trio from the RAF, which carried out bombings, kidnappings and killings in Germany in the 1970s and 1980s.

Klette was arrested on Monday, a spokesman for prosecutors in Verden said, without giving further details.

Along with fellow RAF members Ernst-Volker Staub and Burhard Garweg, Klette is being investigated by the prosecutors in Verden for attempted murder and various serious robberies between 1999 and 2016.

The trio are believed to have been financing their lives on the run through robberies on money transporters and supermarket cash heists.

They are suspected of being behind the failed robbery of a money transporter in 2016 near the northern city of Bremen, among other offences.

In that incident, masked attackers armed with AK-47 automatic rifles and grenade-launcher opened fire but fled without cash when security guards locked themselves inside the armoured vehicle, which was carrying about one million euros ($1.1 million).

Plane hijacking

The anti-capitalist RAF, also known as the Baader-Meinhof gang, emerged out of the radicalised fringe of the 1960s student protest movement.

READ ALSO: What Germany’s Red Army Faction can tell the world about terror

The group, which had links to Middle Eastern militant organisations, declared itself disbanded in 1998.

At the height of its notoriety in 1977, the group kidnapped one of Germany’s top industrialists after opening fire with a machine-gun on his Mercedes.

After ambushing Hanns-Martin Schleyer’s convoy, they held him hostage for six weeks as the West German state negotiated for his release.

On October 13th, four militants of the RAF-allied Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine hijacked Mallorca-Frankfurt flight LH 181, demanding the release of 11 RAF members.

During a five-day odyssey which included seven refuelling stops in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, the cell’s leader, who called himself Captain Martyr Mahmud, shot dead the pilot, Juergen Schumann

German anti-terror commandos eventually stormed the Lufthansa jet in Somalia, shot its Palestinian hijackers and freed 90 hostages.

Schleyer, a former SS officer who became the head of Germany’s employers’ association, was then found dead in the boot of a car in eastern France.

‘Third generation’

Though the so-called German Autumn of 1977 marked the beginning of a long period of decline for the RAF, the group continued to operate for another two decades.

Staub, Garweg and Klette, alleged members of the RAF’s so-called “third generation” active during the 1980s and 1990s, are the chief suspects in a 1993 explosives attack against a prison under construction in Germany’s Hesse state.

Bombed RAF prison Hesse

An aerial photograph from March 28th, 1993 shows parts of the devastated prison building in Weiterstadt near Darmstadt. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | DB Jürgen Mahnke

In the attack, five RAF members climbed the prison walls, tied up and abducted the guards in a van, then returned to set off explosions that caused about €600,000 worth of property damage, according to German prosecutors.

Klette is also a suspect in two previous RAF operations.

Ten days ago, alarm was raised in Wuppertal when a man on a regional train was mistaken for Staub.

However, it turned out to be a case of mistaken identity, and he and Garweg remain on the run.

Although far-right extremism has been a bigger focus for Germany in recent years, far-left attacks have also continued to keep the authorities busy.

A court in Dresden in May sentenced a left-wing extremist woman to more than five years in jail for attacking neo-Nazis, with Germany’s interior minister warning against “vigilante justice”

The defendant, identified only as Lina E., and three other suspects were convicted of participating in a “criminal organisation” that carried out several assaults against right-wing extremists between 2018 and 2020.

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