Steph Deschamps / March 11, 2023
Several people were killed and others seriously injured in a shooting Thursday night at a Jehovah’s Witness center in Hamburg, police said.
The shooting at a Jehovah’s Witnesses center in Hamburg in northern Germany on Thursday night left eight people dead, police said Friday in a first official count.
The latter “shot at participants in a demonstration” organized by the community, said the police, adding that other people were injured, “some of them seriously.
The alleged perpetrator of the shooting at a Jehovah’s Witnesses center in Hamburg killed himself when police arrived, after shooting seven people on Thursday, local authorities announced Friday. “The perpetrator fled to the second floor” of the building where members of the community were gathered for a prayer session”, “and killed himself”, said the Minister of the Interior of the city-state of Hamburg Andy Grote, pointing out that among the victims was a woman seven months pregnant.
According to Der Spiegel magazine, the alleged shooter is a former member of Jehovah’s Witnesses, aged about 30, and was armed with a pistol.
The events took place during a prayer service organized by the community in its Hamburg center.
Police announced overnight on Twitter that they had discovered a body “in a parish house in Gross Borstel and we believe it may be a perpetrator” of the shootings. “At this point, we assume there was only one shooter,” they said.
A large number of law enforcement agencies are” at the site of the Jehovah’s Witness center, Hamburg police added on Twitter.
The Federal Office of Civil Protection lifted the official danger alert in case of an attack in the night, shortly after 03:00local time, to discourage people from leaving their homes.
Jehovah’s Witnesses were gathered since 7 p.m. for a weekly Bible study meeting, according to the daily Hamburger Abendblatt.
Law enforcement “were called around 9:15 p.m. to report shots fired in the three-story building” in the Gross Borstel neighborhood in the north of Germany’s second-largest city, a police spokesman reported on NTV.
The intervention forces “entered the building very quickly and found dead and seriously injured,” according to this spokesman.
Inside, officers also heard a gunshot “coming from the upper part of the building” and found another person, the spokesman continued, stressing “can’t give any indication yet” of the motive.
In the evening, there was a Jehovah’s Witness demonstration in the building,” he added.
The news from Alsterdorf/Gross Borstel is shocking,” reacted the city’s mayor, Social Democrat Peter Tschentscher, on Twitter. “The intervention forces are working hard to pursue the perpetrators and to elucidate the background. »
Founded in the 19th century in the United States, Jehovah’s Witnesses consider themselves to be the heirs of primitive Christianity and refer constantly and solely to the Bible.
The status of the organization varies from country to country: they are considered on the same level as “major” religions in Austria and Germany, which has about 175,000 members, including 3,800 in Hamburg, according to the Witnesses’ website.
In France, many of their local branches have the status of “religious association”, and this rigorous movement is regularly accused of sectarian aberrations.
While the motive for the shooting remains unknown at this stage, German authorities have been on the alert in recent years for a double terrorist threat, jihadism and right-wing extremism.
Germany has been the victim of jihadist attacks, most notably a ram-truck attack claimed by the Islamic State group that killed 12 people in December 2016 in Berlin. This jihadist attack was the deadliest ever committed on German soil.
Since 2013 and until the end of 2021, the number of Islamists considered dangerous in Germany has increased fivefold to 615, according to the Interior Ministry. The number of Salafists is estimated at around 11,000, twice as many as in 2013.
Another threat to Germany comes from the far right, after several deadly attacks in recent years on community or religious sites.
In the racist attack in Hanau, near Frankfurt (west), perpetrated in February 2020, a German involved in the conspiracy movement had shot dead nine young people, all of foreign origin. In 2019, an extremist had attempted to commit carnage in a synagogue in Halle on the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur. He was unable to enter the place of worship but killed two passers-by before being arrested.