BFF-35 Merkel slams ‘poison’ of racism after nine killed in Germany shootings

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Merkel slams ‘poison’ of racism after nine killed in Germany shootings

HANAU, Germany, Feb 20, 2020 (BSS/AFP) – Chancellor Angela Merkel
condemned the “poison” of racism Thursday after a shooter with suspected far-
right beliefs killed nine people at a shisha bar and a cafe in the German
city of Hanau.

The suspect, identified as 43-year-old German Tobias R., was found dead at
his home following an hours-long manhunt.

The body of his 72-year-old mother was also found at the flat in what
appeared to be a murder-suicide.

Federal counter-terror prosecutors investigating the case said they saw “a
xenophobic motive” behind the shootings, the latest deadly attack blamed on
the far right in Germany.

“Racism is a poison, hatred is a poison and this poison exists in our
society and it is already to blame for far too many crimes,” Merkel said in
Berlin.

The suspect left behind online a “manifesto” and video material that
suggested a terror attack motivated by “a hostile attitude to foreigners”,
said Peter Beuth, the interior minister of the state of Hesse.

Among the dead were “several victims of Kurdish origin”, the Kon-Med
association of Kurds in Germany said in a statement, adding that it was
“furious” that authorities weren’t doing more to combat rising extremism.

– Tears and anger –

The rampage started at around 10:00 pm (2100 GMT) on Wednesday at a shisha
bar in the Heumarkt area of central Hanau, a city some 20 kilometres (12
miles) east of Frankfurt.

The gunman reportedly rang the doorbell and shot at people in the smoking
section, mass-market daily Bild said.

He then fled the scene by car before opening fire at the “Arena Bar &
Cafe”, with witnesses reporting hearing a dozen shots.

A total of nine people were killed, police said. Several others were
injured, including one who is in serious condition.

The bloodshed plunged Germany into mourning, and rallies are scheduled in
Berlin, Hanau and other cities on Thursday to honour the victims.

Relatives and friends of the victims gathered at the Arena bar around
midday Thursday, an AFP reporter said, embracing one another in tears.

Police hurried to cover up the address of the perpetrator’s website with a
blue plastic sheet after it was spray-painted on the wall of a nearby
building.

“I couldn’t be any more upset,” said Inge Bank, 82, who lives near the
bar.

“We have to nip it in the bud if the Nazi party is coming back,” Bank
said, adding that she had lived through World War II and seen her mother
imprisoned in a concentration camp.

– ‘Same pattern’ –

The bar shootings sparked a massive manhunt, with armed officers fanning
out across the city and police helicopters roaming the night sky.

Hesse interior minister Beuth said witness reports helped track the
suspect’s vehicle back to his home.

Special forces then stormed the suspect’s apartment where they found him
and his mother dead, killed by gunshot.

In a rambling 24-page document seen by AFP, the alleged gunman wrote that
people from over two dozen countries should be “destroyed”.

He also said he had never been with a woman, which he blamed on being
“watched” by unspecified secret services.

King’s College London counter-terrorism expert Peter Neumann tweeted of
the text that it contained “various, but mostly extreme right views, with a
do-it-yourself ideology cobbled together out of parts found on the internet”.

“The pattern is clear, and not at all new,” he added.

Neumann described the suspect as “an incel”, short for someone who is
“involuntarily celibate”.

Several “incels” have been linked to violent attacks, including a man in
Toronto who stands accused of killing 10 people by ploughing a van into
pedestrians in 2018.

– International condemnation –

Leaders were quick to condemn the killings.

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier echoed Merkel in denouncing the
“terrorist violence” in Hanau.

“I stand with all those who are threatened by racist hatred. You are not
alone,” he said.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, a former German
government minister, said she was “deeply shocked by the tragedy”.

French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted that he supported Merkel “in the
fight for our values and the protection of our democracies”.

Merkel pledged to fight back against “all those who try to divide
Germany”.

She cited the murders carried out by the neo-Nazi “NSU” cell between 2000-
2007 as well as last June’s killing of pro-migrant politician Walter Luebcke,
and the deadly anti-Semitic attack in Halle in October as examples of the
threat posed by the far right.

German police have identified around 50 extreme right adherents as
“dangerous” individuals capable of carrying out a violent attack.

Last Friday, they arrested 12 members of a German extreme right group
believed to have been plotting “shocking” large-scale attacks on mosques,
similar to the ones carried out in New Zealand last year.

BSS/AFP/BZC/2050HRS