GERMANY — A gunman suspected of shooting nine people dead at two shisha bars in Germany is believed to have a far-right background, prosecutors said Thursday.
The attack took place on Wednesday night at multiple locations in Hanau, a city around 25 kilometers (16 miles) east of Frankfurt. Federal prosecutors are treating the mass shooting — one of the deadliest in Germany in years — as an act of terrorism.
Authorities believe the suspect, 43, returned home after the rampage and shot himself. He was found dead in his apartment early Thursday, along with the body of his 72-year-old mother. Both died from gunshot wounds, according to the region’s interior minister, Peter Beuth.
The total number of people killed — including the suspect — is 11, with another person seriously injured, added Beuth.
Federal prosecutors have now taken over the investigation and there are “indications of a right-wing extremist background,” Reuters reported, citing a spokesman for the prosecutors. The suspect did not have a criminal record but he did have “xenophobic” material on his website, said Beuth.
Shooting spree at shisha bars
The rampage began around 10:00 p.m. and appears to have centered around two shisha bars in immigrant areas of the city. After opening fire at the Midnight shisha bar, the suspect then fled by car to the Arena Bar and Cafe, where the attack continued.
A police manhunt followed, and the attacker was later found dead in his apartment, along with the body of his mother.
Shisha bars, or flavored tobacco bars, first started in the city’s Turkish community, and in recent years have become popular among young German people.
Kadir Koese, a 38-year businessman who runs a bar across from one of the bars that was attacked, said he heard shots being fired.
“There was a guy lying on the sidewalk, shot in the head, I think. My neighbor said ‘get down’. The police came quickly,” he told Reuters.
Can-Luca Frisenna, whose family members run one of the bars that came under attack, said he rushed to the scene after hearing about the shooting.
“I heard my father was affected and my little brother, they run the kiosk,” Frisenna told Reuters. “They were horrified and they were crying and everything. So everyone was shocked.”
The suspect left a confession letter and a video, according to CNN affiliate RTL, citing police. His apartment has been blocked off and searched by special forces, and police said there were no indications that other perpetrators were involved.
Turkey on Thursday called the shooting a “racist attack” and suggested its citizens were among the dead.
“I wish God’s mercy on our citizens who lost their lives and wish speedy recovery for the injured of the racist attack in Germany last night,” said Ibrahim Kalin, spokesman for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Chancellor Angela Merkel, who canceled a planned trip to the city of Halle in the wake of the attack, described racism as a poison in German society and offered condolences to the victims and their families.
“It is still too early for a final evaluation. Everything is being done to clear up the background of these horrible murders to the last detail. But at present there is much evidence that the perpetrator acted out of right-wing extremist, racist motives — out of hatred against people of other origins, other beliefs or other outward appearances.
“Racism is a poison, hatred is a poison,” Merkel said. “I think now especially of the families and friends of the murdered. None of us can measure the suffering that the perpetrators brought upon them. I mourn with them and express my deepest sympathy.”
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier also condemned the attack and said he stood with “all people who are threatened by racist hatred.”
The regional parliament in Hesse, the state where Hanau is located, suspended all sessions Thursday.