Authorities are searching for a motive after a lone teen gunman identified as a German-Iranian killed at least nine people, including children, and wounded at least 10 others during a brazen shooting spree around a Munich mall before taking his own life in an attack that sent shock waves across Europe.
“All that we know and can say right now is that it was a cruel and inhumane attack,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s chief of staff, Peter Altmaier, said last night. “We can’t rule out that there are terrorist links. We can’t confirm them, but we are investigating along those lines too.”
Although witnesses reported seeing three men with firearms near the Olympia Einkaufszentrum mall — one of Munich’s largest — local authorities confirmed last night that there was only one gunman, who they identified as an 18-year-old German-Iranian who had been living in the city about two years.
Officials said youths and children were among the dead.
“We see the images of shootings and attacks in other cities, but now it’s here,” said Monty Metzger, a lifelong Munich resident who told the Herald he rode his scooter past waves of charging police cars yesterday. “It’s very frightening. It’s so different — the scenes of terror are here now.”
The attack started during the late afternoon at a McDonald’s across the street from the mall. Soon after, the city went into lockdown, with public transportation halted and taxis ordered to not pick up fares, according to witnesses.
“We were all so confused, it kind of happened really quickly. I heard the news and then the sirens came,” said Tom Scriba, who is from outside Chicago but is studying in Munich.
“Then it was like the whole city went on lockdown,” Scriba said. “The streets are closed. Public transportation isn’t moving. It’s been chaotic.”
It was the second attack in Germany in less than a week. On Monday, a 17-year-old Afghan wounded five people in an ax-and-knife attack near the Bavarian city of Wuerzburg, before he was shot and killed by police.
The Munich killing spree took place close to where Palestinian terrorists killed 11 Israeli athletes in the Olympic Village in 1972.
As news hit that people were stranded in the city, Scriba, Metzger and other Munich residents posted #OpenDoor — or the German translation — on Twitter as an open invitation for people to stay with them until the threat was over.
Meanwhile, some in Munich were checking in as safe on Facebook, and others reached out to friends and family through WhatsApp — a mobile messaging application.
“All of my German friends are checking themselves safe on Facebook, and statuses are popping up with phone numbers and addresses for anyone who was caught in the city when they shut the public transportation down saying ‘please come stay with me for the night,'” said Jocelyn Suarez, a Baylor University student in Europe for the summer.
A video posted online showed a gunman leaving the McDonald’s, raising what appeared to be a gun and aiming at people on the sidewalk, firing as they ran away in horror.
“It feels very strange that our beloved and usually very safe Munich is seeing this chaos and terror,” said Carmen Amrein, a resident who said her husband was at a nearby festival when the shooting started.
“The pictures on television are super strange. Usually we are a super safe city, and people are not allowed to have guns,” Amrein said.
In Boston, members of a fan club that supports European soccer giant Bayern Munich were glued to social networks, waiting for friends in the Bavarian capital to check in safe.
“We are really concerned for our really extensive friend network over there,” said Dennis Hinton, who lived in Munich for six years. “Munich is probably the safest place I’ve ever lived … I hope this doesn’t change that in the DNA of that city.”
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