The police locked down the center of the eastern German city of Halle on Wednesday, warning citizens to stay at home while they searched for attackers who fatally shot at least two people in broad daylight and tried to breach a guarded synagogue during services for Yom Kippur, the holiest day in Judaism.
At least two, possibly three, gunmen opened fire near the synagogue, federal prosecutors said, and the interior minister, Horst Seehofer, said at least one heavily armed attacker had “tried to force his way into a synagogue where some 80 people were inside.”
“Based on the information that we have at this point, we must assume that at the least, this was an anti-Semitic attack,” Mr. Seehofer said.
Germany’s foreign minister, Heiko Maas, deplored the assault on Twitter, saying, “We all must act against anti-Semitism in our country.”
The attack appeared to bear a striking resemblance to the assault on two New Zealand mosques last March that left 51 people dead. As in that assault, one of the Halle shooters appeared to have worn a head-mounted camera to livestream the attack.
Rita Katz, head of the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors extremist groups online, said on Twitter that the camera wearer was heard to say in English that the “root of all problems are the Jews.”
Recent weeks have been punctuated by a number of small attacks on Jews in Germany, where anti-Semitism is an especially sensitive legacy of the Nazi era. Earlier this year, Germany’s top security official condemned a jump in the anti-Semitic attacks, ranging from vandalism to targeting individuals wearing visible emblems of their faith. After Wednesday’s shooting, police reinforcements were sent to synagogues across the country.
Police officials in Halle said the assailants had fled the scene in a vehicle. Video footage shown by the local broadcaster MDR showed a gunman dressed in black and wearing a helmet, exiting the driver’s side of a compact car and opening fire in several directions.
One suspect was arrested shortly after the shooting started, but the police cordoned off the area around the synagogue and blocked major arteries in the city as they hunted for the others.
Click here to read more.
SOURCE: The New York Times, Melissa Eddy