Far-Right Party responsible for recent German Attack and fueling hate near Frankfurt am Main, DE
- Frankfurt, Deutschland (Germany)
Germany just had one of its most devastating mass shootings in years — and it looks like the alleged culprit held far-right, anti-immigrant views, underscoring the growing threat of the rising far-right extremist movement in the country and beyond.
At around 10 pm local time on Wednesday in Hanau, a city roughly 16 miles east of Frankfurt, a gunman killed nine people at two shisha bars. The suspect, said to be 43 years old, then went home after the assault and killed himself and his mother. One person remains seriously injured.
The choice of targets — the Midnight shisha bar and the Arena Bar and Cafe — lend credence to the far-right motivation theory. The establishments are located in areas of the city mainly inhabited by immigrants, and shisha bars — where patrons can smoke flavored tobacco — were first popularized by Hanau’s Turkish community.
Local reports say the first victims in the attack were of Kurdish origin. Peter Beuth, the interior minister for the state of Hesse, where Hanau is, said: “Our current insights give enough ground for a xenophobic motive.”
Those insights are also based on a 24-page manifesto the alleged shooter left behind in which he espouses far-right and anti-immigrant sentiments.
Peter Neumann, a terrorism expert at King’s College in London, got a look at the document and provided analysis of it on Twitter.
“He hates foreigners and non-whites,” Neumann tweeted in a thread early Thursday morning.
“Although he doesn’t emphasise Islam, he calls for the extermination of various countries in North Africa, Middle East and Central Asia (which all happen to be majority Muslim).”
“He justifies his call for killing the populations of entire countries in explicitly eugenicist terms,” Neumann added.
That tracks with what the Amadeu Antonio Stiftung, a German foundation that combats far-right extremism, found in the shooter’s manifesto. “He feels a great threat to himself and his people and believes that he is chosen to defend them by force against enemies from outside,” Robert Lüdecke, the head of public relations for the organization, told me.
“He believes that he is chosen and therefore feels legitimized to carry out his violent acts.”
What we know:
Turkey called the shooting a "racist attack" and said five of its citizens were among the dead. German authorities have not yet publicly confirmed the nationalities of the victims, but prosecutors said the victims' ages ranged from 21 to 44, and that both foreign and German nationals were killed. Six others were injured in the attacks, one of them seriously.
The suspect left a confession letter and a video, according to a CNN affiliate RTL, citing police. His apartment was blocked off and searched by special forces, and police said there were no indications that other perpetrators were involved. Officials said the suspect's father was "met unharmed" by police, but didn't elaborate on where he was found or whether he was arrested.
While the police only named the shooter as Tobias R., they also released information about his place and date of birth. Those details match what a man called Tobias Rathjen published on his personal website.
Federal prosecutor Peter Frank told reporters that the website of the alleged killer contained a "kind of manifesto" that included "confused thoughts", "conspiracy theories", and displayed a "deeply racist attitude". The website has been taken down.
YouTube said it shut down the account of a man named Tobias Rathjen on Thursday morning. The most recent video, which was uploaded on February 14, linked to Rathjen's personal website.
The suspect had a legal gun license, Beuth said. According to Germany's national firearms register, there were 5.7 million privately-owned guns and 1.5 million gun owners as of 2015.
Angela Merkel, Germany's Chancellor, canceled a planned trip to the city of Halle in the wake of the attack, said the evidence overwhelmingly pointed to extremist motives.
"It is still too early for a final evaluation. Everything is being done to clear up the background of these horrible murders to the last detail. But at present there is much evidence that the perpetrator acted out of right-wing extremist, racist motives -- out of hatred against people of other origins, other beliefs or other outward appearances,"
Merkel said from Berlin.
"Racism is a poison, hatred is a poison," Merkel added. "I think now especially of the families and friends of the murdered. None of us can measure the suffering that the perpetrators brought upon them. I mourn with them and express my deepest sympathy."
The far-right Alternative for Germany party said it was "shaken by this terrible act."
"We believe that it is in the interests of the relatives of the victims if the crime and its background are clarified quickly," it added in a statement.
The regional parliament in Hesse, the state where Hanau is located, suspended all sessions Thursday. A vigil for the victims in Hanau on Thursday evening turned into an impromptu protest against extremism, with some attendees carrying signs denouncing racism and xenophobia.
- By Alex Ward (VOX) Melissa Gray, A.J. Davis and Anna-Maja Rappard contributed to this report.