Gunman at Jehovah’s Witnesses center in Hamburg commits suicide

The alleged shooter at a center of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Hamburg, northern Germany, which killed seven people, killed himself after police arrived, local authorities said on Friday, ruling out terrorism.

“The assailant fled to the first floor [do edifício onde os membros da comunidade estavam reunidos numa sessão de oração] and killed himself,” said Hamburg city interior minister Andy Grote.

Police added, on the other hand, that the alleged author of the shootings is a former member of Jehovah’s Witnesses, an organization with which he had apparently clashed.

“But there are no indications of a terrorist context,” a spokesman for the German prosecutor said at a press conference.

Police said they were alerted to the shooting at 9:15 p.m. Thursday (8:15 p.m. Lisbon) and that after arriving at the scene, they heard a gunshot on an upper floor of the building.

A police spokesman told reporters there was “evidence that the author of the attack” could be in the building, “possibly even among the dead.”

The intervention forces “entered the building very quickly and found dead and seriously injured people there,” explained the spokesman, who did not mention a possible motive for the shooting.

According to Bild newspaper, the shooting caused a “bloodbath” and resulted in at least seven dead and eight seriously injured.

A seven-month pregnant woman was hit and the fetus ended up dying, the Daily Mail reports. The information contradicts statements by the interior minister who revealed that the woman had not resisted the attack.

German news agency DPA reported that rescue teams removed 18 people, who escaped without injury, from a building used by Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Hamburg city authorities said the shooting took place in the Gross Borstel district of northern Hamburg, Germany’s second-largest city, at the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses, a modern three-story building.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has already expressed his regret for the “brutal act of violence”, stressing that his thoughts are with the victims and their families.

German Interior Minister Nancy Feiser also reacted on Twitter, saying she was “shocked by the terrible act of violence”.

The Jehovah’s Witness community also said it was “deeply saddened” by the attack.

“The religious community is deeply saddened by the horrific death of its members […] in Hamburg,” he said in a statement posted on the website.

The mayor of Hamburg, Peter Chencher, expressed solidarity with the victims after the news, which he found shocking, with a message on Twitter.

Jehovah’s Witnesses are part of an international church, founded in the United States in the 19th century and headquartered in Warwick, New York, claiming a worldwide membership of about 8.7 million people, with about 170,000 in Germany.

German authorities have been on high alert in recent years against a dual terrorist threat from Islamic and right-wing extremism.

Germany has been the victim of attacks by Islamic extremist movements, particularly one truck attack claimed by the Islamic State (IS) group that killed 12 in Berlin in December 2016, the deadliest of its kind on German soil.

Germans remain a target for Islamic extremist groups, particularly because of the country’s involvement in the anti-IS coalition in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan.

From 2013 to the end of 2021, the number of Muslims considered dangerous in Germany increased fivefold to 615, the German Interior Ministry said.

Following a warning from the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), German authorities announced on January 8 the arrest of two Iranians suspected of preparing a chemical attack using ricin and cyanide.

Another threat is the far right, after several deadly attacks in recent years against religious communities or sites in the country.

In the racist attack in Hanau, near Frankfurt (west), in February 2020, a German involved in a conspiracy movement killed nine young people, all of foreign origin.

Between 2000 and 2007, a neo-Nazi group called the NSU had already murdered nine migrants and a police officer. Two of the members committed suicide before being arrested and the third was sentenced to life in prison.

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