Via Deutsche Welle

Authorities Thursday confirmed the suspect behind two shootings in the central German city of Hanau, which left nine people dead and six more injured, showed signs of a “deeply racist mentality.” 

Germany’s attorney general, Peter Frank, said a video and manifesto posted on the suspect’s website expressed “not only crazy thoughts and convoluted conspiracy theories, but also a deeply racist mentality.” He cited this as the reason for the attorney general’s office to take over the investigation. 

Prosecutors must now “find out, if there were any other supporters or accomplices in the Hanau attacks.” Frank said prosecutors would look into the suspect’s environment and known connections, both in Germany and in other countries. 

The investigation would be led by the federal criminal police, Frank added.

A 43-year-old German man is the prime suspect in the attacks, which took place Wednesday night at two hookah bars. His body and that of his mother were found by police in his home, bringing the total death toll to 11. A weapon was found beside the two. Police encoutered the suspect’s father uninjured, the attorney general’s office said in a statement.

Federal prosecutors soon took over the investigation due to the severity of the case, as this prosecutorial level primarily handles cases of crimes against the state.

What do we know about the suspect?

A website registered under the same name as the suspect, as well as a homemade YouTube video expressing conspiracy theories and a confession letter said to include racist and xenophobic sentiments, were examined by police.

Information from the website claimed the owner was born in 1977 in Hanau, a city of 100,000 inhabitants located some 25 kilometers (15 miles) east of Frankfurt.

He claimed he grew up in the city and later trained at and worked in a bank before completing a business degree.

A press release from the attorney general’s office said there was currently no knowledge of the supect having had a prior criminal record or any investigations against him based on political leanings.

DW’s political correspondent Hans Brandt said expert analysis of the suspect’s data showed that he appeared to be a social loner who was actively involved in online conspirancy-theory groups.

The investigation is ongoing, and officials are looking for links to potential associates or groupings.

What do we know about the victims?

In talking with eyewitnesses on the ground in Hanau, DW’s Rebecca Staudenmaier said the hookah bar where the first shooting took place was focal points for a local tight-knit Kurdish community, as well as a popular hangout for young people of all backgrounds.

Police have revealed few details about the victims. However, Yanki Pürsün, a lawmaker in the Hesse state parliament, told DW’s Turkish service that three of the victims were of Turkish descent and five had a North African background.

Candles and flowers are laid down in honor of the victims of the shootings (Reuters/R. Orlowski)

A makeshift memorial to the victims of the shootings was started near the first hookah bar

Attorney General Frank said that all nine individuals who were killed at the bars had immigrant backgrounds. He added that of the six people who were injured, one was in serious condition.

The attorney general’s office statement added that the victims were between the ages of 21 and 44 and were of both German and foreign nationality.

Why did federal prosecutors get involved?

The federal prosecutor exclusively deals with serious crimes and is the highest prosecutory, or police authority in Germany. It primarily handles cases of crimes against the state, including treason, espionage and terrorism, and cases involving genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.  

Right-wing attacks differ from other types of mass shootings and attacks because the perpetrators often have legal access to firearms, Nils Duquet, a senior researcher at the Flemish Peace Institute, told DW.

“It seems like the perpetrator had a hunting permit,” he said. “What police forces have been noticing across Europe is that they fear that right-wing extremism is on the rise, and that these people can also have access to guns both legally and illegally. That raises the alarm.”

What is the state of right-wing extremism in Germany?

The Hanau shootings are part of a trend of rising right-wing extremist activity in Germany. Last October, a far-right attack on a synagogue in Halle left two dead. In June the same year, regional conservative German politician Walter Lübcke, who had spoken out in favor of migration, was murdered in his home by a far-right extremist.

More recently, police conducted raids last week on right-wing militias suspected of planning xenophobic attacks and trying to create “civil war-like” conditions.

German authorities registered an increase in far-right extremist activity in 2019 and have announced amped-up intelligence efforts against those suspected of holding extremist views.

Yan San-Pierre, a security and counterterrorism expert in Frankfurt, told DW that there has been a recent proliferation of right-wing militia groups.

“We have seen over the past year numerous groups forming, over WhatsApp and smaller militia types aiming to defend German against invaders … More and more of these groups have been popping up,” San-Pierre said.

He added that the sentiments expressed by the suspect in the Hanau shootings were “very much in line with what’s been said in Halle and before in Christchurch [New Zealand] and other letters and statements that have been found in connection with right-wing attacks.”

cmb/aw (dpa, AP, Reuters)

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