A gunman at a German synagogue ranted about feminism, immigration and the Holocaust before he shot two people dead in a live-streamed rampage on Judaism’s holiest day today.
The shooter killed a man and woman, threw a grenade into a Jewish cemetery and left explosives near the synagogue in Halle after failing to force his way inside while worshippers prayed on Yom Kippur.
The suspect, named by Bild as 27-year-old Stephan Balliet, was later arrested after trying to flee in a taxi, according to German media.
This evening Germany’s interior minister said it appeared to be an anti-Semitic attack, possibly motivated by right-wing extremism, while Chancellor Angela Merkel offered her ‘deep sympathy’.
Wearing military fatigues and a helmet camera, the gunman shot a woman dead in the street after she confronted him outside the synagogue, where around 80 people were praying.
Another man was then shot dead after the gunman drove to a kebab shop close to the synagogue before opening fire a second time.
Video taken outside the shop shows him firing what appears to be a shotgun into the street and his face is then revealed as he walks back up the road.
In the 35-minute video, published on Amazon-owned platform Twitch, he bemoaned his failure to get inside the synagogue and talked about the Holocaust, women’s rights and immigration, blaming ‘the Jews’ as the root of various problems.
Witnesses said the attacker also used a submachine gun during the attack and threw a grenade into the Jewish cemetery after shooting at the door of the synagogue to no effect.
Improvised explosive devices were also left outside the front of the synagogue as the terrified congregation barricaded themselves inside.
Halle residents were initially urged to stay inside while police hunted for a possible second attacker, but authorities now believe there was only one gunman.
The German synagogue attacker, named in German media as 27-year-old Stephan Balliet, in a live-stream of the attack today
Face of the attacker: After the failed attack on the synagogue the shooters fled in a car, and then began attacking people at a nearby kebab shop (pictured, a gunman in the street near the shop)
A man and a woman were shot dead in an attack on a synagogue in Halle, central Germany, on Wednesday, while several others were injured. A gunman is pictured outside a kebab shop close to the synagogue
Jewish leaders say the attacker tried to get into the synagogue in Halle during prayers for Yom Kippur, but were stopped by ‘security measures’. A woman was then shot dead in the street outside (pictured, the attacker)
Armed police swarmed to the scene after the gunman opened fire. Witnesses said he used a submachine gun before throwing a grenade into a Jewish cemetery
A body lies in the street outside the synagogue, believed to be that of a female passerby who was gunned down when an attacker failed to get into the synagogue
A kebab shop where a man is thought to have been shot dead after the gunman threw an explosive at the entrance, then fired shots into the restaurant
An armed officer runs to his vehicle in Halle. Police say they have arrested one suspect and are looking for others
Policemen climb over a wall close to the site of a shooting in Halle an der Saale, eastern Germany
Special police forces officers armed with sub-machine guns patrol after the attack in Halle an der Saale on Wednesday
A police robot examines evidence at the scene of a shooting in Halle, eastern Germany, outside a synagogue. There are reports that grenades were used during the attack
German Chancellor Angela Merkel greets members of the Jewish community at a vigil in Berlin on Wednesday evening
People leave candles and flowers at a vigil in Halle this evening after a man and woman were shot dead earlier on Wednesday
At least two other people were injured in the rampage and were having surgery on their gunshot wounds on Wednesday afternoon, officials said.
Residents in Halle, a city of 240,000 people in eastern Germany, had initially been urged to stay at home and the city’s train station was closed during a manhunt for possible further attackers.
However, that lockdown was lifted this evening because ‘the endangerment level for the population is no longer seen as acute,’ authorities said.
‘According to what we now know we have to assume that it was at least an anti-Semitic attack,’ interior minister Horst Seehofer said in a statement tonight.
‘According to the federal prosecutor there are sufficient indications for a possible right-wing extremist motive,’ the politician said.
Footage of the attack appeared on live-streaming site Twitch, although it is not yet clear whether the gunman posted it there himself.
The company said it ‘worked with urgency to remove this content’ and said any account found to be posting or reposting ‘content of this abhorrent act’ would be permanently suspended.
In the 35-minute video, the gunman is seen attempting to force his way inside a synagogue after finding a door locked.
He gets an explosive out of his car and tries to blow up a gate at the side of the building, but the blast makes minimal impact.
When a woman confronts him, asking if his behaviour was ‘really necessary’, he shoots her dead.
The gunman then tries to shoot the door of the synagogue open, but without success, and is heard bemoaning his failure to get inside.
He then drives on to a kebab shop, where he fires more gunshots while people cower behind drinks machines and plead for mercy. One of them, a man, is shot dead.
It is not clear if either victim was Jewish.
Forensic officers were working at the site where one of the victims was shot outside a synagogue on Wednesday
A bus whose destination board reads ‘evacuation’ is escorted by police past the site of a shooting in Halle on Wednesday
Armed police block access to a street near the scene of a shooting that has left two people dead
Jewish worshippers were sealed inside the synagogue for several hours while police cleared the surrounding area, before finally being allowed out. Pictured, a family celebrates their freedom
Local Jewish leaders said that an attacker had attempted to get into the synagogue but security measures ‘withstood the attack’ before he began shooting elsewhere
Armed police wearing masks and helmets seal off part of Halle near the scene of one of the shootings on Wednesday
While the attacker appeared to have been targeting the synagogue, Jewish community leaders said that none of the victims of the shooting appeared to be Jewish
Synagogue visitors sit in a bus after a shooting in Halle after police relaxed the cordon enough for them to leave
Shooter posts video on Amazon-owned Twitch
Social media firms faced anger and calls to ‘step up’ last after graphic footage of the anti-Semitic gun rampage in Germany was streamed live on Twitch and watched by thousands of people.
The 35-minute video was streamed live on Twitch, an Amazon-owned gaming site, and stayed there for another 30 minutes after the broadcast had finished before it was finally taken down.
In that time more than 2,000 people viewed the footage and some of them distributed it further via other social media networks.
The 35-minute video was streamed live on Twitch (file photo), an Amazon-owned gaming site, and stayed there for another 30 minutes after the broadcast had finished
The shooter had created his Twitch account two months before Wednesday’s Yom Kippur violence.
Last night there were calls for social media sites to take action to stop their platforms being used for violence.
‘Amazon is just as much to blame as Twitch for allowing this stream online,’ said Hans-Jakob Schindler of the Counter Extremism Project.
‘Online platforms need to step up and stop their services being used and in turn, parent companies need to hold them accountable.
‘This tragic incident demonstrates one more time that a self-regulatory approach is not effective enough and sadly highlights the need for stronger regulation of the tech sector.’
‘We are shocked and saddened by the tragedy that took place in Germany today, and our deepest condolences go out to all those affected,’ a Twitch spokesman said.
‘Twitch has a zero-tolerance policy against hateful conduct, and any act of violence is taken extremely seriously.
‘We worked with urgency to remove this content and will permanently suspend any accounts found to be posting or reposting content of this abhorrent act.
‘Once the video was removed, we shared the hash with an industry consortium to help prevent the proliferation of this content.
‘We take this extremely seriously and are committed to working with industry peers, law enforcement, and any relevant parties to protect our community.’
After firing further gunshots in the road and returning briefly to the kebab shop, he drives around calling himself a ‘loser’ before abandoning the vehicle.
According to German media, he commandeered a taxi by shooting the driver and made it around 40 miles away to Werschen before a collision with a lorry held him up and he was arrested.
The suspect himself was also being treated for injuries, police said. Halle police have now handed over the case to federal authorities.
Tonight Angela Merkel attended an evening vigil at a historic synagogue in central Berlin in honour of the victims of the attack.
Mrs Merkel condemned the deadly shooting, her spokesman said, offering ‘solidarity for all Jews on the holy day of Yom Kippur’.
The German leader offered ‘deep sympathy’ for the victims’ families, government spokesman Steffen Seibert said, adding her ‘thanks to all the security forces who are still on the scene’.
The former East Germany, where today’s attack took place, has been particularly susceptible to far-right violence since reunification in 1990.
Just last month, a neo-Nazi ‘terrorist’ cell based in the eastern town of Chemnitz was put on trial accused of plotting a violent political uprising in Germany.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also condemned today’s attack, saying it was ‘a new expression of anti-Semitism on the rise in Europe’.
Josef Schuster, president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, said it was a ‘deep shock for all Jews in Germany’.
‘This act in Halle on the highest Jewish holiday Yom Kippur has deeply troubled and scared our community,’ Schuster, Mr Schuster said in a statement.
‘The brutality of the attack surpasses everything we have seen in recent years and is a deep shock for all Jews in Germany. The fact a synagogue was not protected by police on a holiday like Yom Kippur is a scandal.’
World Jewish Congress chief Ronald Lauder said Germany needs to deliver with ‘action rather than words’ and provide Jewish institutions the protection they need.
Max Privorotzki, who heads the Jewish community in Halle, said the gunmen had attempted to enter the synagogue, but that security measures were able to ‘withstand the attack’.
‘We saw through the camera of our synagogue that a heavily armed perpetrator wearing a steel helmet and rifle was trying to shoot open our door,’ he told German media.
‘We barricaded our doors from inside and waited for the police,’ he said, adding that ‘in between, we carried on with our service.’
Rescued members of the Jewish community wait inside a bus near the scene of a shooting that has left two people dead
Police initially advised residents to shelter in their homes while they scoured the area for possible further attackers
Police officers with an armoured vehicle block a road in Halle, Germany
A helicopter takes off as police secure the area between Wiedersdorf and Landsberg near Halle, eastern Germany
An officer leads a bomb-sniffing dog across the street in Halle, following reports that grenades were thrown by a gunman who targeted a synagogue in the city
A helicopter lands as police secure the area between Wiedersdorf and Landsberg near Halle, eastern Germany. Gunshots were also reported in those two towns, which sit near Halle
Police officers walk on a road in Halle, Germany, as they secure the area following an attack outside a synagogue
Police guard a crime scene near a Synagogue after a shooting in Halle, Germany, which targeted Yom Kippur worshippers
U.S. ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell says 10 Americans were inside the synagogue at the time but were all ‘safe and unharmed’.
Footage taken near the kebab shop showed the man climbing out of his car before sheltering behind the door as he levels a long-barrelled gun and fires up the street.
Each shot ejects a plume of grey smoke as the gunman stops to reload before firing again and spent casings can be seen dropping to the ground behind him.
Konrad Rösler, a 28-year-old railway worker interviewed on German TV, said that he was in the kebab shop in Halle when he saw a man with a helmet and military jacket launch the attack.
Rösler said the attacker threw a grenade at the shop, which bounced off the door frame, before he fired shots into the shop. He said he locked himself in the toilet and heard several more loud bangs before police arrived.
‘All the customers next to me ran, of course I did too. I think there were five or six of us in there,’ Mr 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.’
Armed officers help a woman to cross the street, stepping around shell casings which have been circled with spray paint on the floor
Police block the area around the site of a shooting in Halle an der Saale, eastern Germany
Police say they have arrested one person in connection with the attack, but told resident to shelter in place while the manhunt continues (pictured, an ambulance at the scene
Police secure the area after a shooting in the eastern German city of Halle
The attack happened in Halle around midday, before shots were confirmed in nearby Landsberg, although police would not say if the two were linked. A heavy police presence was also reported in
The shooting triggered a huge influx of police to the city, among them units of the SEK, the elite of the German anti terrorism police.
Armed police were also deployed around synagogues in Leipzig – where an emergency alert was briefly issued before being revoked – and in Dresden, around 90 miles away.
Yom Kippur – Judaism’s holiest day
Yom Kippur, or the Day of Atonement, is the holiest day in Judaism which is marked with an intensive 25-hour period of fasting and prayer.
The holiday began Tuesday night and was due to end late Wednesday. The day typically involves five prayer sessions, with followers encouraged to repent for sins.
It is celebrated throughout the Jewish world, even by typically secular members of the faith.
Security was also increased at Jewish sites in Berlin, though no specific threat had been identified.
German anti-terror prosecutors said they were taking the lead in investigating the shooting, after Jewish leaders said their synagogue was targeted.
The investigation will be a murder probe.
A spokesman for the federal prosecutor’s office said the step had been taken given ‘the particular importance of the case’ which he said involved ‘violent acts that affect the domestic security of the Federal Republic of Germany’.
Wednesday’s shootings came three months after the shocking assassination-style murder of local pro-migrant politician Walter Luebcke in the western city of Kassel, allegedly by a known neo-Nazi.
Luebcke’s killing has deeply shaken Germany, raising questions about whether it has failed to take seriously a rising threat from right-wing extremists.
Investigators have been probing the extent of suspect Stephan Ernst’s neo-Nazi ties and whether he had links to the far-right militant cell National Socialist Underground (NSU).
Interior Minister Horst Seehofer last month warned of the rising danger of the militant far right, calling it ‘as big a threat as radical Islamism’.
Seehofer said that police had uncovered 1,091 weapons including firearms and explosives during probes of crimes linked to the far right last year, far more than in 2017 when 676 were found.
At the same time, Germany has also been on high alert following several jihadist attacks in recent years claimed by the Islamic State group.
A police officer stands guard next to a van close to which his colleagues are gathered near the site of the shooting in Halle
A police robot near the scene of a shooting that has left two people dead in Halle, Germany
Police forces walk along the wall to a Jewish cemetery near the scene of a shooting that has left two people dead in Halle
Armed officers were also deployed outside a synagogue in Dresden, around 90 miles from Halle, as a precautionary measure following the attack amid fears of copy-cats
Police officers secure a synagogue in Dresden, Germany, following a shooting 90 miles away in Halle
Police armed with sub-machine guns and wearing armour and helmets secure the area around a memorial commemorating the 1938 Crystal Night pogroms, close to the synagogue in Dresden as a precautionary measure