At least eight people died in an attack in a hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Hamburg, the German police revealed this Friday. Among the eight dead will be the attacker, so there are at least seven victims as a result of the attack.
The number was advanced on the police website, which also reports an undetermined number of injured. The Bild daily had previously reported that the attack had generated “a bloodbath” and resulted in at least seven deaths and eight seriously injured.
Authorities have not yet released a possible motive for Thursday night’s shooting in Germany’s second-largest city in the north of the country.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz lamented the “brutal act of violence”, stressing that his thoughts were with the victims and their families.
German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser also reacted on Twitter, saying she was “shocked by the terrible act of violence”.
Ich bin erschüttert über die furchtbare Gewalttat in einer Gemeinde der Zeugen Jehovas in #Hamburg. Meine Gedanken sind bei den Opfern, ihren Angehörigen & den Gemeindemitgliedern. Die Hintergründe werden mit Hochdruck ermittelt. Vielen Dankan @PolizeiHamburg & Rettungskräfte.
— Nancy Faeser (@NancyFaeser)
March 10, 2023
The Jehovah’s Witness community also said it was “deeply saddened” by the deadly attack on members. “The religious community is deeply saddened by the terrible death of its members.”
The police indicated that they were alerted to the shooting at 21:15 on Thursday (20:15 in Lisbon) and that, after arriving at the scene, they heard a shot on an upper floor of the building.
A police spokesman told journalists that there were “evidence that the author of the attack” could be in the building, “possibly even among the dead”.
The German news agency DPA indicated that rescue teams removed 18 people, who escaped unharmed, from a building used by Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Jehovah’s Witnesses are part of an international church, founded in the United States in the 19th century and headquartered in Warwick, New York, claiming a worldwide membership of about 8.7 million people, with about 170,000 in Germany.
German authorities have been on high alert in recent years in the face of a dual terrorist threat, from Islamic and right-wing extremism.
Germany has been the victim of attacks by Islamic extremist movements, in particular one with a truck, claimed by the Islamic State group (IS) that caused 12 deaths in December 2016, in Berlin, the deadliest of its kind committed on German soil.
Germans continue to be a target for Islamic extremist groups, in particular because of the country’s involvement in the coalition against IS in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan.
Since 2013 and until the end of 2021, the number of Muslims considered dangerous in Germany has quintupled, reaching 615, indicated the German Interior Ministry.
After an alert from the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), German authorities announced on January 8th the arrest of two Iranians suspected of preparing a chemical attack, using ricin and cyanide.
Another threat is the far right, after several deadly attacks in recent years against religious communities or sites in the country.
In the racist attack in Hanau, near Frankfurt (west), in February 2020, a German involved in a conspiracy movement killed nine young people, all of foreign origin.
Between 2000 and 2007, a neo-Nazi group called NSU had already murdered nine migrants and a police officer. Two of the members committed suicide before being arrested and the third was sentenced to life in prison.