Eight people have been killed, including the suspected gunman, and several injured in a shooting at a Jehovah’s Witness meeting hall on Thursday evening in the German city of Hamburg.
German police were searching for a motive on Friday after the attacker, believed to have been acting alone, killed several people at an event in the Jehovah’s Witness Kingdom Hall, in the city’s Gross Borstel neighbourhood. The district is located south of Hamburg airport.
According to Der Spiegel magazine, the gunman is a former member of the religious community, aged between 30 and 40.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz described the shooting in the northern city as a “brutal act of violence”, adding that his thoughts were with the “victims and their families. And with the security forces who have faced a difficult operation.”
The number of wounded is not yet clear, with media rports placing the figure between six and eight.
The EU Commissioner Ylva Johansson tweeted that it was a “shocking attack”, adding: “My thoughts are with the victims and their families.”
She thanked the police in Hamburg, Germany’s second largest city and home to its biggest port, for responding to the shooting “immediately and with incredible bravery”.
Germany’s interior minister Nancy Faeser said on Twitter that the authorities were working urgently to investigate the crime.
“We assume that there is one perpetrator,” police said late on Thursday, as they appealed for the public not to spread rumours. “Investigations into the motives behind the crime are continuing.”
On Friday morning, forensic investigators in protective white suits were outside the building as a light snow fell. Officers placed yellow cones on the ground and windowsills to mark evidence.
Police said they were alerted to the shooting about 9.15pm and were on the scene quickly. They said that after officers arrived, they heard a shot from an upper floor.
At noon on Friday there will be a press conference where details of the crime and the status of the investigation will be announced.
Mass shootings like this are rare in Germany, which has some of the most stringent rules around gun control in Europe. The interior minister said late last year the government planned to tighten gun laws after a suspected plot by a far-right group to violently overthrow the state.
Jehovah’s Witnesses are members of a Christian-based religious movement, with approximately eight million members worldwide. Germany has one of the largest communities in Europe with just over 20,000 congregations.