A former member of the Jehovah’s Witnesses shot dead at least seven people, including an unborn child, at a hall belonging to the congregation in the German city of Hamburg before killing himself after police arrived, authorities said Friday.
There was “no indication of a terrorist background” to the attack, a spokesman for the Hamburg prosecution’s office said.
The police have identified the perpetrator as Philipp F, a 35-year-old German who is said to have no previous record of offences. He is also known to be a member of the congregation. However, he left the same 18 months ago will “ill feelings”.
Police have also revealed an anonymous letter that was sent to the officers back in January stating that the attacker should not be allowed to own any weapons and that he may be suffering from mental illness. According to the statement by the city’s police, a total of eight people were left dead after the shooting including the alleged perpetrator.
In a statement, the Jehovah’s Witnesses in Germany expressed their profound sadness regarding the terrible assault that took place at the Kingdom Hall in Hamburg after a religious ceremony, which affected their members.
The mass shooting in the northern German city took place around 9 pm (local time) or 3 pm ET. While initially, the police were unsure about the number of shooters, they alter confirmed that there was just one, who died at the scene.
The three-storey building was still cordoned off on Friday with several officers standing outside, an AFP reporter said.
Germany has about 175,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses, including 3,800 in Hamburg. The US Christian movement, set up in the late 19th century and which preaches non-violence, is known for door-to-door evangelism.
The first officers to enter the Jehovah’s Witness Kingdom Hall building found several lifeless bodies and seriously wounded people, police said.
Germany has been rocked by several attacks in recent years, both by jihadists and far-right extremists.
Among the deadliest committed by Islamist extremists was a truck rampage at a Berlin Christmas market in December 2016 that killed 12 people. The Tunisian attacker, a failed asylum seeker, was a supporter of the Islamic State jihadist group.
Germany has also been hit by a string of far-right assaults, sparking accusations that the government was not doing enough to stamp out neo-Nazi violence. In February 2020, a far-right extremist shot dead 10 people and wounded five others in the central German city of Hanau.
In 2019, two people were killed after a neo-Nazi tried to storm a synagogue in Halle on the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur.
Politicians, including German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, strongly condemned the killing rampage that took place in the northern German city. In a tweet, Scholz expressed his sympathy for the members of the Jehovah’s community who were victims of a savage act of violence, and his thoughts are with them and their families.
(Agencies Picture Courtesy: AP)