Massacre in a German church

At least seven people were killed and others seriously injured in a shooting Thursday night at a center for Jehovah’s Witnesses in Hamburg, police in Germany’s second largest city said.

The assailant would be one of the people who died at the scene, added the police, who said they had “no indication of the perpetrators on the run” at this time. The agents heard some shots and, according to a police spokesman, Holger Vehren, “there are indications that a perpetrator is eventually at the scene and that he is one of the deceased.” Initially it had been reported that one or more of the perpetrators might have fled.

The shooting would have caused, in addition to the seven deaths, eight serious injuries, according to the newspaper Bild, which evokes a “bloodbath”. “Many elements of law enforcement are on the scene,” police said on Twitter.

“Avoid the danger zone. In the danger zone, stay where you are and do not go outside at the moment,” the federal civil protection office said in a statement.

“Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses”

The security forces “were called around 9:15 p.m. to be informed of shots in the building” of three floors, located in the Gross Borstel neighborhood, in the north of Hamburg, near the city’s airport, a police spokesman said. to the NTV network. The intervention forces “quickly entered the building and found dead and seriously injured,” this spokesman added.

Inside, the agents heard a shot “coming from the upper part of the building” and found another person, added the spokesman, who could not give “yet indications” about the mobile. “In the evening, there was a congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the building,” he added.

“Our measures and investigations are working at full speed. As soon as there is reliable information (…) we will communicate it directly,” the police tweeted after midnight, more than three hours after the events occurred.

The mayor of the city, the Social Democrat Peter Tschentscher, also echoed the terrorist attack. “The news coming from Alsterdorf / Gross Borstel is disturbing,” he said on Twitter. “The intervention forces are working hard to persecute the perpetrators and clarify the context.”

Around midnight, the police asked the population through social networks to refrain from disseminating “discussions about the perpetrators or the event” and reported that there is still no “certain information” about the reason for the shooting.

Police forces cordoned off the area near the site and special forces were sent there, according to local media, which indicated that the deployment affected the neighborhoods of Gross Borstel, Alsterdorf and Eppendorf. At around midnight a helicopter monitoring that part of the city could be seen flying over the nearby area.

The three-story building is located on Deelböge street and local media reported that members of Jehovah’s Witnesses meet twice a week at the Kingdom Hall.

Founded in the 19th century in the United States, Jehovah’s Witnesses consider themselves heirs of early Christianity and base their creed solely on the Bible. The organization’s status varies from country to country: it ranks with the “great” religions in Austria and Germany, is listed as a “recognized cult” in Denmark, and as a “religious denomination” in Italy. In France, many local branches have the status of “cult association”, but the movement is regularly accused of sectarian drift.

– Double Threat –

Although the motive for the shooting is still unknown, the German authorities have been on alert for a double threat in recent years: jihadism and the extreme right.

Germany has been the victim of jihadist attacks, in particular a car attack claimed by the Islamic State group that killed 12 in December 2016 in Berlin and became the bloodiest ever committed in the country.

From 2013 to the end of 2021, the number of Islamists considered dangerous present in Germany increased fivefold and is currently 615, according to the Ministry of the Interior. The number of Salafists is estimated at 11,000, or twice as many as in 2013.

But another threat has swept through Germany in recent years, embodied by the extreme right, with several deadly attacks against community or religious centers. In a racist attack in Hanau, near Frankfurt (west), a German involved in conspiracy movements killed nine young people in February 2020, all of them of foreign origin.

The security forces received notices of a shooting after 9:00 p.m. local time (8:00 p.m. GMT) and a police patrol that was in the vicinity of the religious temple, in the Groß Borstel neighborhood, south of the city’s airport. , went to the place.

The mayor of Hamburg, Peter Tschentscher, described what happened in the city as “horrifying” and declared that “the security forces are working hard to persecute the perpetrators and clarify what happened.”

Several people with gunshot wounds were found at the scene and local media report that seventeen of those attending the event at the scene of the shooting were unharmed.

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