2 people killed in shooting outside German synagogue on holiest day in Judaism
Two people were killed in a shooting in the east German city of Halle on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish year.
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Multiple gunshots were fired by the attacker near a synagogue and then in a kebab shop in the areas of Ludwig-Wucherer-Strasse and Humboldstrasse, which are about a 5-minute walk away.
The shooting began around noon local time, an eyewitness told ABC News. The suspected attacker fled the scene in a car towards south of Halle and was arrested outside the town at around 3:30 pm local time. A video of the shooting was reportedly posted online.
The unnamed victims were one male and one female, and police said the male is thought to be a “visitor” to the local area.
Police gave no further details about the target of the attack, although they did not rule that more people could have been involved. Federal prosecutors, who usually handle cases involving suspected terrorism or cases dealing with national security, have now taken over the investigation.
It is unknown how many people were inside the synagogue at the time of the incident, but the head of Halle’s Jewish community, Max Privorotzki, told Der Spiegel that he estimated there were about 70 to 80 people inside.
“We have at least two crime scenes,” local policeman Ralf Karlstedt told national broadcaster RTL. “One person died as the result of a shooting in the area Ludwig-Wucherer-Strasse, another one in the area of the Humboldstrasse. We first received information that there is one suspect, who was armed. There have since also been suggestions that there potentially there have been more people involved, but that at this point is not confirmed. We currently know of at least one suspect.”
“The suspect then fled in a car. The police were able to trace a vehicle, which has been secured outside of Halle. The police arrested one suspect,” he added.
Footage shot by eyewitness Anderas Splett, a filmmaker living in Halle, shows the alleged gunman stepping out of a car and firing at least four shots.
“I heard a blast around noon. My wife came running to me screaming, ‘Someone is shooting outside!'” Splett told ABC News. “I ran to the window looked outside and saw a man wearing a steel helmet. His face was all red, either painted or maybe he has a skin disease. He was very calmly shooting with a double-barreled gun arbitrarily at a group of people. Those people at first weren’t realizing what was going on at first. They then all ran away.”
“The shooter then went back to his car, opened the trunk and got out a handgun. He had a whole arsenal of guns in his trunk. A woman in the kebab place under my flat screamed. After about half an hour lots of police came in terrifying gear. They said we can’t leave our house and if we do, we can’t come back inside,” he said.
The German government’s secretary of state, Heiko Maas, drew a link between the shooting and anti-Semitism in the country.
“The fact that on the reconciliation festival #YomKippur shots were being fired at a synagogue hits us right in the heart,” he posted on Twitter in German. “We all have to fight against anti-Semitism in our country. My thoughts are with the dead and injured, their relatives, and the police in these difficult hours. #Halle.”
The European Parliament held a moment of silence to commence its session on Wednesday to mark the ongoing situation in Halle.