A gunman opened fire inside a Jehovah’s Witnesses parish hall Thursday night in Germany’s second-largest city, killing at least seven and injuring eight people.
The gunman reportedly broke into the north Hamburg church around 9:00 p.m. during a religious service that had around 50 people in attendance. Equipped with two magazines, each containing 15 bullets, and carrying an additional 20 loaded magazines in a backpack, the gunman fired over 100 rounds using a handgun, reported DW.
Police indicated that an unborn child died in the attack, but did not elaborate on whether the mother was similarly among the dead.
Four men and two women between ages 33 and 60, all German citizens, are among the dead, reported DW.
Four of the injured victims have life-threatening wounds, said police.
Footage shows police taking wounded parishioners to safety (warning: graphic):
Hamburg Police noted on Twitter Thursday night that they found the suspected perpetrator among the dead. He reportedly killed himself after his “rampage.”
According to Andy Grote, Hamburg’s state interior minister, a “large contingent” of law enforcement officers including special forces were reportedly deployed in response to the first emergency call at 9:04 p.m.
The special forces arrived at the church five minutes later and “interrupted the crime,” separating the shooter from the congregation.
The Telegraph indicated the shooter may have fled upstairs to kill himself after police busted in.
A police spokesman note that upon arrival, officers found several people grievously injured and some dead, reported Reuters.
“Then they heard a shot from above, they went upstairs and found one further person,” said the spokesman.
Grote underscored that the actions taken by law enforcement “saved many people’s lives.”
“We heard shots,” one witness told reporters. “There were 12 continuous shots. … Then we saw how people were taken away in black bags.”
The Washington Post reported that one witness, Gregor Miesbach, told a German news outfit that he had heard over 25 shots and saw a person enter the building through a window, before opening fire inside.
Officials suggested the gunman, identified as Philipp Fusz, was a 35-year-old German resident.
The Telegraph reported that Fusz was a “business coach” with no criminal history. According to his website, he was “a self-confessed European and feels comfortable in a global mindset.”
Fusz was allegedly a former member of the Jehovah’s Witnesses congregation.
According to DW, police received an anonymous tip alleging that Fusz was mentally deranged and should not be in possession of firearms. While authorities reportedly paid him an unannounced visit, they reportedly did not see any cause for concern.
The city’s former mayor, Chancellor Olaf Scholz, described it as a “brutal act of violence.”
Peter Tschentscher, mayor of Hamburg, said, “My deepest sympathy goes out to the relatives of the victims. The emergency services are working at full speed to prosecute the perpetrators and to clarify the events.”
In a statement, the church said that its religious community was deeply affected by the terrible killing of their members of the faith in a Kingdom Hall in Hamburg after a church service. The statement underscored how the faithful were praying for all concerned and wishing them the power of the God of all comfort.
There are roughly 170,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses in Germany and nearly 9 million worldwide. David Semonian, a U.S.-based spokesman for Jehovah’s Witnesses, stated Friday morning that members “worldwide grieve for the victims of this traumatic event.”
Government data revealed that anti-Christian hate crimes rose in Germany by nearly 150% in 2020, reported the Daily Mail. A 2021 human rights watch dog report indicated that attacks on Christians and church property have been on the rise in Europe, skyrocketing by 70% in 2019-2020.
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