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Nine killed in German neo-Nazi terror attack, Muslims among the dead

28th Feb 2020
Nine killed in German neo-Nazi terror attack, Muslims among the dead

Turkey’s Ambassador to Berlin, Ali Kemal Aydin (2nd R) gathers with the citizens at the scene of shootings  (Credit: Mesut Zeyrek//Anadolu Agency)

Elham Asaad Buaras

Nine members of the German public among them Muslims believed to be of Turkish and Kurdish descent were shot dead and up to six more were critically injured after a neo-Nazi terrorist opened fire on two Shisha bars in Hanau, 12 miles east of Frankfurt.

The far-right terror attack on February 19 at Shisha bars popular with immigrant communities comes just five days after police detained 12 men for allegedly planning a “shocking” large-scale far-right terror attacks on mosques similar to the ones carried out in New Zealand last year. The terrorist is said to have rung the bell at the Midnight Shisha lounge and sprayed bullets at people inside when he was let in. He then fled the scene in a car before gunfire rang out at a second bar, Arena, less than two miles away.

A manhunt launched to find the shooter ended the following day with the discovery of two bodies in a house in Kesselstadt district – one of which was said to be the attacker and the other thought to be his mother. The gunman, named as Tobias Rathjen, 43, left a letter and a video which confessed to the crime and expressed extreme right-wing views. In his video, the shooter claimed certain people living in Germany must be “exterminated as their expulsion can no longer be achieved.”

Bild reported that people of Turkish or Kurdish origin were among the victims. Among the country’s nearly 4.7 million Muslims, 3 million are of Turkish origin.

Turkey called for European countries to unite against xenophobia and racism, “It is now time for all European countries to unite against racism and xenophobia and speak with one voice, The heinous attack in Hanau, Germany is a grave new manifestation of rising racism and hostility to Islam,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement. While the Confederation of the

Kurdistan Community in Germany Spokesman said, “We are angry because the politically responsible in this country have not taken a decisive stand against right-wing networks and right-wing terrorism.”

Peter Beuth, Interior Minister of the state of Hesse confirmed that federal prosecutors have taken over the investigation and are treating it as a terror attack.

German President, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, said, “I learned about the terrorist act in Hanau with horror. My deepest sympathy and condolences go out to the victims and their relatives. I wish a speedy recovery to those injured.”

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said, “A terrible crime was committed.” He also sent condolences to the “affected families, grieving for their dead” and wished a quick recovery for the injured.

Konstantin von Notz, a panellist who oversees the intelligence services, that it is “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 practised 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.”

Hanau Mayor, Claus Kaminsky, said, “This was a terrible evening that will certainly occupy us for a long, long time, and we will remember with sadness.” Hanau MP, Katja Leikert, said it was “a real horror scenario for us all.”

German authorities increasingly have turned their attention to the country’s underground extreme-right scene since the murder of local politician Walter Lübcke and an October attack on a synagogue in Halle.

On February 14 police raided the homes of 12 men in Baden-Wuerttemberg, Bavaria, Lower Saxony, North-Rhine Westphalia, Rheinland-Palatinate, and Saxony Anhalt the men allegedly planned major attacks. Media reports say the group aimed to launch several simultaneous mass-casualty assaults on Muslims during prayer gatherings.

Prosecutors said four of the suspects had set up a “terrorist organisation” in September 2019 and regularly met and contacted each other by phone and in online chat forums and chat groups. They had no immediate plan to carry out an attack.

The other eight men were detained on suspicion of supporting the organisation with money and weapons, the GBA said. The group’s leading figure Werner S made concrete plans to attack politicians, refugees, and Muslims to provoke a civil warlike situation in the country, the German press agency DPA reported.

The Welt am Sonntag reported that the men dubbed their cell Der harte Kern [The Hard Core]. Prosecutors say the men wanted to cause “circumstances akin to civil war…yet-unspecified attacks against politicians, asylum-seekers and Muslims.”

On February 15, Germany’s highest criminal court, the Federal Court of Justice, ordered the men to remain in jail while the investigation continues.

Four of the men are suspected of forming a right-wing terrorist organization and the remaining eight of pledging their support, including funding, supplying of weapons, or help in any terror plots.

“It’s shocking what has been revealed here, that there are cells here that appear to have become radicalised in such a short space of time,” said the Interior Ministry spokesman Björn Grünewälder.

“It is the task of the state, and of course of this Government, to protect the free practice of religion in this country, with no reference to what religion it might be. Anyone practising their religion in Germany within our legal order should be able to do so without being endangered or threatened,” said Seibert.

Media reports said the group planned to use semi-automatic weapons to mimic last March’s attacks in Christchurch, New Zealand, in which 51 worshippers were killed at two mosques. The alleged leader of the group, who was known to the authorities, had detailed his plans at a meeting organised with his accomplices a week before the raids.

Investigators discovered the plot from an infiltrated, the reports said. Prosecutors said they had launched raids to determine whether the suspects already had weapons or other supplies that could be used in an attack. Der Spiegel reported that police list 53 people belonging to the extreme right as “dangerous” individuals who could carry out a violent attack.

European leaders voiced shock and horror at the terrorist attacks. “My thoughts are with the people of Germany as they grieve those lost in the terrible attack in Hanau. The UK stands with our German friends against this racist assault on our values,” said British PM Boris Johnson.

‘Our thoughts are with the victims and grieving families. I stand with Chancellor Merkel in this fight for our values, and the protection of our democracies,’ wrote French President, Emmanuelle Macron, on Twitter.

“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. We are in thoughts with the people in Hanau. We extend our sincere condolences to the relatives and friends of the victims,” said Charles Michel, President of the European Council.

David Sassoli, President of the European Parliament, also shared his sorrow over the attack, “We stand united against any form of hatred and violence,” a sentiment shared by NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said who said he was “appalled” by the shootings.

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