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9 Killed in Far-Right Attack in Germany02/20 06:33

   HANAU, Germany (AP) -- A 43-year-old German man shot and killed nine people 
at several locations in a Frankfurt suburb overnight in attacks that appear to 
have been motivated by far-right beliefs, officials said Thursday.

   The gunman first attacked a hookah bar and a neighboring cafe in central 
Hanau at about 10 p.m. Wednesday, killing several people, before heading about 
2.5 kilometers (1.5 miles) west and opening fire again, first on a car and then 
a sports bar, claiming more victims.

   Chancellor Angela Merkel said that while the circumstances of the attack 
still needed to be fully investigated, the shootings exposed the "poison" of 
racism in German society and pledged to stand up against those who seek to 
divide the country.

   Hookah lounges are places where people gather to smoke flavored tobacco from 
Middle Eastern water pipes, and some of the victims appeared to be Turkish.

   Witness Kadir Kose ran over from a cafe he runs nearby after he heard the 
first shots, initially assuming there was an altercation between family 
members. 

   "But when I heard the second shots I thought it was a terror attack," Kose 
said.

   He said he was shocked at the extent of the violence, saying that while 
fights or stabbing aren't unheard of, "this is a whole other level, something 
we hear about from America." 

   Witnesses and surveillance videos of the suspect's getaway car led 
authorities quickly to his home, near the scene of the second attack, where he 
was found dead near the body of his 72-year-old mother, said Peter Beuth, the 
interior minister for the state of Hesse. 

   Neighbor Dieter Hog said he looked out his window and saw 25 or 30 police 
officers with dogs combing the area.

   "They were running around looking for the fugitive who was involved," Hog 
told The Associated Press, adding that even though he lived close by he did not 
know the suspect.

   Both the suspect and his mother had gunshot wounds, and the weapon was found 
on the suspect, Beuth said.

   At the townhouse Thursday, forensic experts came and went from the building, 
and police kept people away. 

   A website believed to be the suspect's is being evaluated, Beuth said.

   "Initial analysis of the web page of the suspect indicate a xenophobic 
motivation," he said. It does not appear, however, that the suspect was known 
either to police or Germany's domestic intelligence agency, he added.

   He said federal prosecutors have taken over the investigation of the crime 
and are treating it as an act of domestic terrorism.

   "This is an attack on our free and peaceful society," he said. 

   Following a conference call with Germany's state interior ministers, 
Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann said on the basis of the 
investigation so far, "it was a right-radical xenophobic" attack, German news 
agency dpa reported.

   The attack was quickly and broadly condemned by many organizations, 
including the Central Council of Muslims, the Confederation of Kurdish 
Associations in Germany, and the Central Council of Jews. 

   Merkel pledged that "everything will be done to investigate the 
circumstances of these terrible murders."

   In unusually plain words, the German leader said: "Racism is a poison. 
Hatred is a poison."

   "This hatred exists in our society and its is responsible for far too many 
crimes," she added, citing the killings committed by a far-right gang known as 
the NSU, the shooting of a regional politician from her party last year and the 
attack on a synagogue in Halle in October.

   She added that authorities would do everything possible to stand up to those 
who try to divide the country with racism.

   French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted it was a day of "immense sadness" 
and pledged his "full support for Germany."

   "I'm at the side of Chancellor Merkel in her fight for our values and the 
protection of our democracies," he said. 

   Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the consulate in Frankfurt 
and the embassy in Berlin were trying to obtain obtain information about the 
attack, including the possibility that some of the victims were Turkish.

   "According to the initial information, it was an attack with a racist 
motive, but we would need to wait for the (official) statement," he told state 
television TRT.

   German news agency dpa reported that police are examining a video the 
suspect may have posted online several days earlier in which he details a 
conspiracy theory about child abuse in the United States. The authenticity of 
the video couldn't immediately be verified.

   In the video, the dark-haired speaker wearing a white button-down shirt 
under a suit jacket, said he was delivering a "personal message to all 
Americans" that "your country is under control of invisible secret societies."

   In a slow and deliberate voice, in accented English, he says there are "deep 
underground military bases" in which "they abuse, torture and kill little 
children."

   He makes no reference to the far-right fringe QAnon movement in the U.S., 
but the missive is similar to the movement's central, but baseless belief that 
U.S. President Donald Trump is waging a secret campaign against enemies in the 
"deep state" and a child sex trafficking ring run by satanic pedophiles and 
cannibals.

   On a website registered by someone with the same name as the man in the 
video, Tobias R., the owner says he was born in Hanau in 1977 and grew up in 
the city, later training with a bank and completing a business degree in 2007.

   The attack comes amid growing concerns about far-right violence in Germany.

   Merkel called off a planned visit Thursday to a university in Halle. Her 
spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said she was "being constantly kept abreast of the 
state of the investigations in Hanau."

   Halle was the site of a deadly anti-Semitic attack last year. A man 
expressing anti-Jewish views tried to shoot his way into a synagogue, failed 
and killed two passers-by before being arrested. 

   The shooting in Halle came months after the killing of a regional politician 
from Merkel's party. The suspect had a long history of neo-Nazi activity and 
convictions for violent crime.

   "Thoughts this morning are with the people of Hanau, in whose midst this 
terrible crime was committed," Seibert said on Twitter. "Deep sympathy for the 
affected families, who are grieving for their dead. We hope with those wounded 
that they will soon recover."

   In addition to those killed, Beuth said one person was seriously wounded and 
multiple other people suffered less serious injuries. 


(KR)

 
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