2 dead in attack targeting German synagogue on Yom Kippur
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 nearby in an attack Wednesday that was livestreamed on a popular gaming site.
The attacker shot at the door of the synagogue in the eastern city of Halle but did not get in as 70 to 80 people inside were observing the holy day.
The gunman shouted that Jews were "the root" of "problems" such as feminism and "mass immigration," according to a group that tracks online extremism. It said a roughly 36-minute video posted online featured the assailant, who spoke a combination of English and German, denying the Holocaust before he shot a woman in the street after failing to enter the synagogue. He then entered a nearby kebab shop and killed 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. He said several people were hurt.
The attack "strikes the Jewish community, Jewish people not just in Germany but particularly in Germany, to the core," said the country's main Jewish leader, Josef Schuster. "It was, I think, only lucky circumstances that prevented a bigger massacre."
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.
Wednesday's assault followed attacks in the United States over the past year on synagogues in Pittsburgh and Poway, California.
The head of Halle's Jewish community, Max Privorozki, told news magazine Der Spiegel that a surveillance camera at the entrance of the synagogue showed a person trying to break into the building.
"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."
A video clip shown on 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.
Conrad Roessler said he was in the kebab shop when a man with a helmet and a military jacket threw something that looked like a grenade, which bounced off the doorframe. He said the man then shot into the shop.
"All the customers next to me ran, of course I did too. I think there were five or six of us in there," Roessler told n-tv television. "The man behind me probably died."
"I hid in the toilet," he added. "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.
Schuster offered his condolences to the relatives of "the two completely uninvolved people" who were killed and his sympathy to those were wounded. German authorities didn't give any details on the victims.