October 18, 2019

Yom Kippur gunman kills two people in attack on German synagogue

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An attacker has been unmasked after gunmen killed two people near a synagogue in Germany on Yom Kippur – Judaism’s holiest day – leaving explosives near the house of worship and throwing a grenade into a cemetery.

One woman was shot dead in the city of Halle around midday as attackers tried to get inside a nearby synagogue where around 80 people were praying, but were stopped by ‘security measures’.

A man was then shot dead after the gunmen drove to a kebab shop close to the synagogue before opening fire a second time. 

Video taken outside the shop shows a man dressed in military fatigues firing what appears to be a shotgun into the street and his face is then revealed as he walks back up the road.

Witnesses said the attackers also used a submachine gun during the attack and threw a grenade into the Jewish cemetery, leaving several injured.

Improvised explosive devices were also left outside the front of the synagogue, local media reported, as the terrified congregation barricaded themselves inside.

Police have since arrested one suspect, but told residents to ‘stay alert’ while a manhunt continues. Gunshots were later reported in Landsberg, 10 miles from Halle, though it was not immediately clear if they were linked.  

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 attackers 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, an attacker)

Armed police swarmed to the scene after the attackers opened fire. Witnesses said they 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 attackers 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

Police officers with an armoured vehicle block a road in Halle, Germany, amid reports that some of the gunmen fled in a car

A police robot examines evidence at the scene of a shooting in Halle, eastern Germany, outside a synagogue. There are reports that grenades were using during the attack

Bild reports that at least two people have been taken to a nearby hospital with gunshot wounds, where one is undergoing surgery. 

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’. 

He added that between 70 and 80 people were in the synagogue at the time of the attack.

It is thought the attackers tried to flee in a taxi but were confronted by the driver and his wife, who were shot and have since been taken to hospital. 

The attackers are then thought to have tried to flee on foot before one of them was arrested. 

Footage taken in Halle shows one man climbing out of a car before sheltering behind the door as he levels a long-barrelled gun and fires up the street. 

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 attackers had attempted to get into the synagogue but security measures ‘withstood the attack’ before they began shooting elsewhere

While the attackers 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

Rescued members of the Jewish community wait inside a bus near the scene of a shooting that has left two people dead

Police have advised residents to shelter in their homes while they continue scouring the area for more attackers

A helicopter takes off as police secure the area between Wiedersdorf and Landsberg near Halle, eastern Germany

Each shot ejects a plume of grey smoke as the gunman stops to reload before firing again. Spent casings can be seen dropping to the ground behind him.

A short time later shooting was reported in the nearby town of Landsberg, where the mayor said gunmen had hijacked a car. There was also a large police presence reported in Wiesderdorf, another nearby town.  

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.

Speaking to NTV, a police spokesman said the motive of the suspect or suspects was not clear.

‘We don’t have any indication about the motive of this act.’ 

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman, Steffen Seibert, lamented what he called ‘terrible news from Halle’ but government officials said they had no information on the attack.  

An officer leads a bomb-sniffing dog across the street in Halle, following reports that grenades were thrown by gunmen 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

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 railway station in Halle, a city of 240,000, was closed down as a precaution amid the police operation. 

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 Dresen, 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

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