German terrorist's nine victims all had migrant background, police say

German terrorist’s nine victims – including pregnant mother – all had migrant backgrounds and ‘were shot with a Glock 17 pistol he’d bought legally online’, police reveal as they probe whether he had an accomplice

  • Nine people killed in a terror attack in the German town of Hanau all had migrant backgrounds, authorities say
  • Dead thought to include a 35-year-old pregnant woman, and two young Turkish men working at a shisha bar 
  • Police have described shooting as a far-right terror attack and named the killer as 43-year-old Tobias Rathjen  
  • Investigators say he was not known to police and are probing whether he had an accomplice or outside help 
  • It is thought he bought the murder weapon – a Glock 17 pistol – legally online and also owned two other guns 

All nine of those killed in a far-right terror attack on two shisha bars in Germany had migrant backgrounds, authorities say, while a number of foreigners are also believed to be among the six wounded. 

A 35-year-old pregnant mother-of-two was among those shot dead in the town of Hanau on Wednesday night, German newspaper Bild reported, while Turks Gokhan Gultekin and a 22-year-old Ferhat Ünvar – both employees at one of the shisha bars – were also named among the dead.

The gunman was named as 43-year-old Tobias Rathjen, a far-right conspiracy theorist who advocated ethnic cleansing in a 24-page manifesto posted online, who opened fire in his hometown starting at 10pm.

Rathjen first targeted the Midnight bar and shisha lounge in the town centre and the La Votre cafe next door, before driving 1.5miles up the road where he attacked another shisha lounge – the Arena Bar and Cafe – as well as people sitting in a sports car outside.

He is then thought to have fled to his parents’ house just around the corner from the second murder scene where he shot his 72-year-old mother dead in front of his father, then turned the gun on himself. Police discovered his body in a raid on the apartment around 3am. 

Germany’s chief prosecutor Peter Frank said Rathjen was not known to police and it appears acted alone, but is investigating whether he had an accomplice or received support from anyone else. 

Rathjen is thought to have bought the murder weapon – believed to be a Glock 17, 9mm pistol – legally online using a gun licence he had since 2013. 

The body of a man who was shot in a car is taken to a van at the crime scene at a bar in Hanau, Germany

German police officers guard the entrance of a bar where several people were killed late Wednesday in Hanau, Germany

A criminal expert points in front of a bar, while working on a car containing dead bodies in Hanau, Germany

Tobias Rathjen, 43, opened fire at two locations in the German town of Hanau overnight, killing nine people and leaving six others injured before going back to his parents’ apartment where he shot his 72-year-old dead and then killed himself

Rathjen, pictured bottom right in a yearbook photo from 1996, uploaded a manifesto online before carrying out his attacks detailing his belief in ethnic cleansing, mind control and that the government was following him

Police secure the shisha bar where several people were killed when Rathjen opened fire around 10pm Wednesday

A forensic officer at the scene outside the Midnight shisha bar, one of the sites of last night’s shootings in Hanau

The La Votre cafe and bar, which is next door to the Midnight shisha bar and was also targeted in last night’s attack

The Arena Bar and Cafe was the scene of the second attack, in which three people are thought to have been killed

It is thought Rathjen got into this vehicle after the first shooting, drove a mile down the road to his second target, then returned to this address where he killed himself

Police have seized a vehicle believed to belong to Rathjen from outside an apartment where he killed himself

A bullet seen on the ground after a drive-by shooting in Hanau near Frankfurt last night. Six people were hurt, including one in a serious condition

Rathjen opened fire at the Midnight shisha bar in Hanau around 10pm (right), killing three people, before making his way to the Arena Bar and Cafe (left) where he shot and killed another five people. Another person later died in hospital, and it is not clear exactly where they were shot. Two more bodies – believed to be those of the killer and his mother – were then found at an apartment close to the second crime scene

The weapon is the same as the one used in the Munich shopping mall attack in 2016. Rathjen is also thought to have owned two other weapons – a SIG Sauer 9mm and a Walther 9mm.

Rathjen was also a member of a local shooting club, which he attended up to three times a week. 

President Claus Schmidt said there were no indications that he was a dangerous racist, saying: ‘He was totally inconspicuous. There wasn’t the slightest hint of racism or xenophobia, not even a weird joke.’

Meanwhile the Turkish embassy in Berlin said five of its citizens were among those killed in what President Erdogan called a ‘racist attack’. German authorities have called it a ‘terror attack’ motivated by far-right ideology.

An official from the consulate of Bosnia and Herzegovina also reported that one of the victims was Bosnian.

Chancellor Angela Merkel said the shootings exposed the ‘poison’ of racism in Germany, and she pledged to stand up against those who seek to divide the country.

‘There is much to indicate that the perpetrator acted out of far-right extremist, racist motives,’ she said. ‘Out of hatred for people with other origins, other faiths or a different appearance.’

All of the victims were aged between 21 and 44, Germany’s chief prosecutor Peter Frank said on Thursday afternoon, without giving any more details.

Rathjen is thought to have used a Glock 17, 9mm pistol that he bought legally online using a gun licence in the attack. He is also thought to have owned two other handguns

Speaking about Rathjen, Frank said the gunman had posted extremist videos and a manifesto with ‘confused ideas and far-fetched conspiracy theories’ on his website. 

An examination of the website by MailOnline shows that Rathjen was obsessed by aliens, mind control, Satanic sacrifice and believed he was under government surveillance – which he blamed on his inability to get a girlfriend. 

It appears Rathjen wrote a letter to Berlin’s chief prosecutor in November last year, complaining that he was being spied on by a secret German intelligence service and urging them to stop.

The 19-page letter is believed to be substantially similar to the manifesto Rathjen posted around the time of the shootings. 

Rathjen also advocated ethnic cleansing, vowing to wipe out entire countries including Israel, most of the Middle East, some Asian nations, North Africa, Central and South America, the Caribbean, and Germans who he considered to be ‘impure’, 

‘I can imagine halving the population,’ he wrote.

Alongside the manifesto, Rathjen outlined a plan to help the German football team win a World Cup and a strategy that he insisted could have ended the Afghan and Iraq wars within 10 years.

His website included links to prominent conspiracy theorists including people who claim to have carried out autopsies on aliens or to be investigating missing persons cases which they link to alien abduction.

And in a video posted online just a few days before the attack, Rathjen rants about underground military bases in America where he claims Satan worship and child abuse takes place – urging people to rise up and attack them.  

Following the raid on the apartment where Rathjen died, a man – believed to be his father – was seen being led away from the scene in handcuffs. He is not thought to have been directly involved in the attacks. 

Police said they found a letter and a video in the apartment in which Rathjen confessed to the killing.  

The attack is thought to have targeted shisha bars because they are popular with Middle Eastern men who gather there to smoke flavored tobacco from water pipes. 

From migrant crisis, to AfD, to terror attacks: The rise of the German far-right 

Germany has been at the centre of a resurgence in far-right politics across Europe in recent years, which has seen the AfD seize a record number of seats in parliament, a far-right attack on a synagogue and a politician murdered by a right-wing extremist suspect.

The swing towards right-wing ideology began as a backlash to the 2015 migrant crisis, when Chancellor Angela Merkel threw open Germany’s borders to migrants crossing the Mediterranean – infamously declaring ‘we can do it’.

An estimated 1million migrants arrived in Germany that year alone followed by headline-grabbing stories of sexual assaults, most infamously on New Year’s Eve 2015/16 when more than 1,000 women in 12 cities including Cologne claimed to have been sexually assaulted, mostly by men with a non-European background.

Far-right gunman Stephan Balliet opened fire on a German synagogue in October last year during Yom Kippur – trying and failing to get inside and massacre worshippers – before shooting two people dead and injuring two others outside 

After failing to get inside the synagogue, Balliet opened fire on passersby (pictured) before going around the corner to a kebab shop and firing through the windows

In 2017, anger at the attacks coupled with fears about integrating large numbers of migrants into local communities manifested in record support for the far-right AfD at Germany’s national election – earning them 94 seats in parliament and making them the third largest party.

The rise of the AfD’s political movement has been mirrored in a rise of far-right extremism that included two high-profile attacks last year.

In June, politician Walter Luebcke who had strong pro-migrant views and led a regional government in the town of Kassel, was found dead outside his home from a single pistol shot to the head.

A 45-year-old man with a history of violent hate crimes was subsequently arrested, in what police believe was a targeted killing borne out of high extremist right-wing ideology. 

Then, in October the same year, a far-right extremist attacked a synagogue in the Germany city of Halle on Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar, with rifles and explosives.

After trying and failing to get into the synagogue, he shot two people and injured two others including attacking a nearby kebab shop before being arrested.

German police have also recorded an increase in hate crimes, which rose from 7,913 to 8,113 in 2018, with the majority of those attributed to the far-right. Anti-Semitic crimes also rose in the same period, from 1,504 to 1,799.

In 2018, anti-terror police also seized 1,091 weapons linked to crimes by alleged far-right extremists, a 61 per cent increase on 2017 as experts warned of a ‘massive rearmament’ by neo-Nazi groups.

And, in the first half of 2019 alone, police said they registered 8,605 right-wing extremist offenses – an increase of 900 on the same period of 2018. 

Just last week, 12 people including a German police employee were arrested and accused of plotting to create ‘civil war’ with attacks on migrants, asylum seekers, politicians and Muslims. 

Pro-migrant politician Walter Luebcke (left) was shot dead outside his home in 2019 by a far-right attacker. German police arrested 12 people, including one of their own employees, who were plotting more attacks on politicians last week (right)

Police handcuff a man near the scene of one of the shootings. German media reported that the shooter’s father was led away from his apartment in handcuffs, but is not thought to have been directly involved in the shooting

The first shooting occurred around 10pm when gunfire erupted at the Midnight shisha lounge in Hanau town centre, before more shots were fired at the cafe next door 

Rathjen is then thought to have driven away from the first scene and gone 1.5miles to the Arena Bar and Cafe, where he opened fire on a sports car outside and then the cafe itself 

Five people are thought to have been shot dead at the second location, which included a second shisha bar. The victims are thought to include Kurds, Turks, a Bosnian and a Pole

A forensic officers leaves the La Votre cafe, which is located next door to the Midnight shisha lounge, where possible bullet casings are marked on the floor

Special forces officers are seen working near the scene of the first shooting in Hanau, which has been described as a terrorist attack by investigators

Emergency service swarmed the area after the shooting. A silver Mercedes covered with rescue blankets was seen in front of a bar in Hanau

Witness Kadir Kose ran over from a cafe he runs nearby after he heard the first shots, initially assuming there was an altercation between family members.

‘But when I heard the second shots I thought it was a terror attack,’ Kose said.

He said he was shocked at the extent of the violence, saying that while fights or stabbing aren’t unheard of, ‘this is a whole other level, something we hear about from America.’

Witnesses and surveillance videos of the suspect’s getaway car led authorities quickly to his home, near the scene of the second attack, where he was found dead near the body of his 72-year-old mother, said Peter Beuth, the interior minister for the state of Hesse. 

Neighbor Dieter Hog said he looked out his window and saw 25 or 30 police officers with dogs combing the area.

‘They were running around looking for the fugitive who was involved,’ Hog told The Associated Press, adding that even though he lived close by he did not know the suspect. 

Both the suspect and his mother had gunshot wounds, and the weapon was found on the suspect, Beuth said.

At the townhouse Thursday, forensic experts came and went from the building, and police kept people away.

A website believed to be the suspect’s is being evaluated, Beuth said.

‘Initial analysis of the web page of the suspect indicate a xenophobic motivation,’ he said. It does not appear, however, that the suspect was known either to police or Germany’s domestic intelligence agency, he added.

He said federal prosecutors have taken over the investigation of the crime and are treating it as an act of domestic terrorism.

‘This is an attack on our free and peaceful society,’ he said.

Chancellor Angela Merkel said that while the circumstances of the attack still needed to be fully investigated, the shootings exposed the ‘poison’ of racism in German society. Merkel pledged to stand up against those who seek to divide the country.

‘There is much to indicate that the perpetrator acted out of far-right extremist, racist motives. Out of hatred for people with other origins, other faiths or a different appearance,’ the German leader said. 

Police forensic personnel investigate at the scene after a shooting in central Hanau

Broken glass on the floor after the shooting yesterday. German police say several people were shot to death in the city of Hanau on Wednesday evening

A police officer secures the area around two shisha bars after a shooting in Hanau near Frankfurt, Germany

Officers detaining a man near a damaged silver Mercedes car after a shooting in Hanau near Frankfurt yesterday night

Police said a dark vehicle was seen leaving the scene of the first shooting, and another shooting was reported at a second site

Forensic experts are seen outside a shisha bar after a shooting in Hanau near Frankfurt

A police officer looking for evidence in front of a restaurant at the scene of a shooting in central Hanau last night

A man places a flower tribute in front of a shisha bar where several people were late Wednesday in Hanau

Konstantin von Notz, a German politician who sits on the panel which oversees Germany’s intelligence services, added: ‘I am deeply affected by the horrific terrorist attack in Hanau. My thoughts are with the victims and injuries and their relatives. 

‘My solidarity is with the people in Hanau, especially with the citizens with a history of migration. The background to the crime and the perpetrator must now be carefully investigated. It is the hour of the investigators. 

‘But it is also clear that the agitation against migrants, the use of anti-Semitic narratives and the contempt for the state and the media, as has been systematically practiced by the AfD for years, has fatal consequences.  

‘This poisoned social climate is the breeding ground for the right-wing terrorist structures, murdering individuals and terrorist attacks such as those in Halle, Kassel and now Hanau.’ 

Following a conference call with Germany’s state interior ministers, Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann said on the basis of the investigation so far, ‘it was a right-radical xenophobic’ attack, German news agency dpa reported.

The attack was quickly and broadly condemned by many organizations, including the Central Council of Muslims, the Confederation of Kurdish Associations in Germany, and the Central Council of Jews.

Merkel pledged that ‘everything will be done to investigate the circumstances of these terrible murders.’

In unusually plain words, the German leader said: ‘Racism is a poison. Hatred is a poison.’

‘This poison exists in our society and its is responsible for far too many crimes,’ she added, citing the killings committed by a far-right gang known as the NSU, the fatal shooting last year of a regional politician from her party, and the attack on a synagogue in Halle in October.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the consulate in Frankfurt and the embassy in Berlin were trying to obtain obtain information about the attack, including the possibility that some of the victims were Turkish.

‘According to the initial information, it was an attack with a racist motive, but we would need to wait for the (official) statement,’ he told state television TRT. 

Forensic experts working around a damaged car that was covered emergency blankets and left with glass scattered around it after a shooting in Hanau

Forensic experts dressed in white overalls searching the area and in shrubberies after a bloodbath in the city of Hanau

Hunting: Forensic experts working to find clues after gun attacks at two shisha bars in Germany last night 

Nine people were killed and six were injured in shootings in the German city of Hanau on Wednesday night, authorities said

There is a heavy police presence in Hanau this evening after a double shooting

Police forensic officers stand near the scene. Heavily armed police sealed off two streets where ambulances had rushed and a police helicopter hovered over the city

Heavily armed police officers with machine guns secured the area after the shooting

German Chancellor Angela Merkel gives a statement in Berlin after a shooting in Hanau on Wednesday night

German news agency dpa reported that police are examining a video the suspect may have posted online several days earlier in which he details a conspiracy theory about child abuse in the United States. The authenticity of the video couldn’t immediately be verified.

In the video, the dark-haired speaker wearing a white button-down shirt under a suit jacket, said he was delivering a ‘personal message to all Americans’ that ‘your country is under control of invisible secret societies.’

In a slow and deliberate voice, in accented English, he says there are ‘deep underground military bases’ in which ‘they abuse, torture and kill little children.’

He makes no reference to the far-right fringe QAnon movement in the U.S., but the missive is similar to the movement’s central, but baseless belief that U.S. President Donald Trump is waging a secret campaign against enemies in the ‘deep state’ and a child sex trafficking ring run by satanic pedophiles and cannibals.

On a website registered by someone with the same name as the man in the video, Tobias R., the owner says he was born in Hanau in 1977 and grew up in the city, later training with a bank and completing a business degree in 2007.

The attack comes amid growing concerns about far-right violence in Germany.

Merkel called off a planned visit Thursday to a university in Halle. Her spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said she was ‘being constantly kept abreast of the state of the investigations in Hanau.’

Halle was the site of a deadly anti-Semitic attack last year. A man expressing anti-Jewish views tried to shoot his way into a synagogue, failed and killed two passers-by before being arrested.

The shooting in Halle came months after the killing of Walter Luebcke, the regional politician from Merkel’s party. The suspect had a long history of neo-Nazi activity and convictions for violent crime.

‘Thoughts this morning are with the people of Hanau, in whose midst this terrible crime was committed,’ Seibert said on Twitter. ‘Deep sympathy for the affected families, who are grieving for their dead. We hope with those wounded that they will soon recover.’

In addition to those killed, Beuth said one person was seriously wounded and multiple other people suffered less serious injuries.

French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted it was a day of ‘immense sadness’ and pledged his ‘full support for Germany.’

‘I’m at the side of Chancellor Merkel in her fight for our values and the protection of our democracies,’ he said.

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