9 killed in shootings at hookah lounges in German city; suspect dead

Updated February 20, 2020

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View of one of the bars target of a shooting in Hanau, western Germany, on February 20. — AFP
View of one of the bars target of a shooting in Hanau, western Germany, on February 20. — AFP

A man suspected of fatally shooting nine people in the German city of Hanau was found dead at his home early on Thursday, hours after the attacks in and outside two hookah lounges, police said.

Officers also found another body at the same address, police said.

Police gave no details of the suspected gunman but said "there are currently no indications of further perpetrators". They did not give details of his possible motive or how he died, or specify why they believe "with a high degree of probability" that he was the assailant.

Mass-selling Bild newspaper said the man was a German citizen and that ammunition and gun magazines were found in his car. He had a firearms hunting licence, it added.

The number of dead in the shootings on Wednesday evening rose to nine, a police statement said.

Officers sealed off and searched the apartment in Hanau's Kesselstadt district, near the scene of one of the shootings, after following up witness statements on a getaway car. Police said work to confirm the identities of the two bodies at the home was still underway, and they couldn't immediately give details either on them or the identities of the victims of the earlier shootings.

Earlier on Thursday, police said that eight people were killed and around five wounded. They said a dark vehicle was seen leaving the location of the first attack and another shooting was reported at a scene about two and a half kilometres away.

The first attack occurred at the "Midnight" bar in the centre of the city around 10pm, police and reports said.

Three people were killed in front of the building, local media said, with witnesses reporting hearing a dozen shots.

The attacker, or attackers, fled the scene by car, according to police.

There was then a second shooting at Arena Bar.

A gunman reportedly rang the doorbell and shot people in the smoking area, killing five people including a woman, according to mass-circulation Bild, adding that the victims were of Kurdish origin.

"The victims are people we have known for years," said the bar manager's son, quoted by DPA news agency. Two employees were among the victims, according to the man, who was not at the bar during the shooting.

"It is a shock for everyone".

At least five people were also seriously wounded in the attacks, reports said.

Police officers swarmed central Hanau, cordoning off the area of one of the shootings as a helicopter hovered overhead. A car covered in thermal foil also could be seen, with shattered glass next to it. Forensic experts in white overalls collected evidence.

"This was a terrible evening that will certainly occupy us for a long, long time and we will remember with sadness," Hanau Mayor Claus Kaminsky told the Bild newspaper.

Lawmaker Katja Leikert, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel's center-right party who represents Hanau in the German parliament, tweeted that it was "a real horror scenario for us all".

Hanau is about 20 kilometres east of Frankfurt. It has about 100,000 inhabitants and is in Hesse state.

EU chief 'deeply shocked' by Germany shootings

European Union chiefs expressed shock and sadness after shootings at two bars in Germany left nine people dead.

“I am deeply shocked by the tragedy that took place last night in Hanau. My thoughts are with the families and friends of the victims, to whom I want to extend my sincerest condolences. We mourn with you today,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, a former German government minister, tweeted.

EU Council Head Charles Michel and European Parliament Speaker David Sassoli echoed the sentiments in their own tweets.

“The senseless loss of human life is a tragedy — no matter where it occurs. After the terrible attack our thoughts are with the people in #Hanau. Our heartfelt condolences go to the relatives and friends of the victims,” Michel wrote.

Sassoli tweeted: “Shocked and deeply saddened by the horror of the shooting in the German city of #Hanau. Our thoughts go to the victims and their loved ones. We stand united against any form of hatred and violence.”