- For hours after the attacks on Friday afternoon, Munich was in “an acute terror situation”
- A message on Twitter by police in the Bavarian capital confirmed there were 10 dead, including the gunman
- Munich police sent frequent messages via Twitter and Facebook advising residents to stay at home
To address the carnage at a shopping mall in Munich that left 10 people dead including the gunman on Friday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has called an emergency meeting of her security council.
After hours of fear and security sweeps, police in Munich said early Saturday that they had concluded only one gunman was involved, and that the attacker killed himself.
A message on Twitter by police in the Bavarian capital confirmed there were 10 dead, including the gunman.
The shootings were an “inhuman, cruel attack,” and terrorist motives cannot be ruled out, according to Merkel’s chief of staff, Peter Altmaier. Cabinet ministers were to travel to Berlin later Saturday for the security meeting called by Merkel.
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The United States declared the Munich shootings were “an apparent terrorist attack” that must be condemned in the strongest terms.
President Barack Obama expressed sorrow over the casualties when he appeared at a meeting of law enforcement officials, saying, “Our hearts go out to those who may have been injured.” The president pledged all possible support to Germany, one of the United States’ closest allies.
For hours after the attacks on Friday afternoon, Munich was in “an acute terror situation,” authorities said, and a manhunt was underway throughout Germany’s third-largest city.
Witnesses had reported seeing up to three people with firearms on the streets, and eyewitness video showed a man brandishing a long gun outside a McDonald’s restaurant. As the gunman raised his weapon and trained it on a nearby crowd, the camera operator fled, but the sound of rapid gunfire was heard.
An American bystander in Munich who declined to give his name told VOA he was at a train station when the shooting began.
“Initially it was pretty, pretty scary at the train station,” the man said. “People just started rushing in once the activity was happening outside.”
The American said fear spread through the people in the train station, and then it fell silent outside. “Everybody rushed back” into the station at that point to find safety, he continued, even though the station already had been shut as a security precaution. All rail systems were suspended during the emergency.
“Now everything is on lockdown,” the American bystander told VOA several hours after the attack. “There is a lot of police presence. A lot of cars, a lot of helicopters in the sky, flying around.”
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Details about what happened trickled out slowly from German authorities. “Most of the action has calmed down,” the American bystander said. “It’s been that way for several hours now, but there is still a lot of activity and not a lot of answers.”
Munich police, federal police and special forces took part in the security sweep. Police asked the public not to take photos or video of the security measures in order to avoid divulging information that could be useful to an attacker. At that point, police were hunting for up to three suspects.
Munich police sent frequent messages via Twitter and Facebook advising residents to stay at home and urging those who were out in the city to avoid public spaces or take shelter in protected buildings.
Friday’s attack took place four days after a 17-year-old Afghan refugee attacked passengers with an ax and a knife on a train in the German city of Wuerzburg. The teenager wounded four people before police shot him dead. Islamic State later claimed responsibility for the attack.
In late June, a masked man opened fire at a German movie complex in the western town of Viernheim, near Frankfurt, wounding several people. Special police officers shot him dead and freed several hostages.
Stephen Szabo of the Transatlantic Academy at the German Marshall Fund of the United States told VOA the Wuerzburg attack, followed by the Munich shootings, would focus new scrutiny on Germany’s policy of accepting refugees fleeing world trouble spots. Merkel’s open policy on refugees is “very different than the policies you’ve seen in France and Belgium,” Szabo said. “…It means that the political ramifications are going to be pretty strong against her and against this open-door policy.”
The analyst also said the two attacks could be considered harbingers of difficult times to come. “This could be the beginning of a serious internal terrorist threat in Germany, which they’ve expected,” Szabo said. “Everybody expected something to happen in Germany over the last year.”(VOA)