‘Lone’ attacker committed suicide before police could capture him.
A teenage German-Iranian gunman who killed nine people in a shooting rampage at a busy Munich mall and then committed suicide had likely acted alone, German police said on Saturday.
The third attack on civilians in Europe in barely a week sent panicked shoppers fleeing the Olympia mall as elite police launched a massive operation to track down what had initially been thought to be up to three assailants. “The perpetrator was an 18-year-old German-Iranian from Munich,” police chief Hubertus Andrae told reporters after the rampage. The shooter had dual citizenship and “no criminal record.”
“The motive or explanation for this crime is completely unclear,” he added.
However, a police spokesman in the Bavarian capital had said earlier that terrorism was suspected, without revealing any immediate indications of an Islamist link.
Armed with a handgun, the attacker opened fire at a McDonald’s restaurant early Friday evening and continued in the street before entering the Olympia mall, killing nine people and wounding 16 in his rampage, according to the latest toll. “There were youths among the dead,” Andrae said, adding that some of those injured were children.
A police patrol had shot and wounded the attacker but he had managed to escape, he said. The suspected attacker’s body was later found about one kilometer from the mall where the shootings took place, German DPA news agency reported. “We found a man who killed himself. We assume that he was the only shooter,” police said on Twitter.
A video posted on social media appeared to show a man dressed in black walking away from a McDonald’s while firing repeatedly on people as they fled screaming. Munich’s main train station was evacuated and metro and bus transport in the city suspended for several hours while residents were ordered to stay inside, leaving the streets largely deserted.
By early Saturday, transport services were running again, Munich police said.
Chancellor Angela Merkel will convene her security council on Saturday to address the deadly rampage in the European economic powerhouse, which took in more than one million migrants and refugees last year. “We are determined to do everything we can so that terror and inhuman violence stand no chance in Germany,” her chief of staff Peter Altmaier said.
The spree began before 1600 GMT at the McDonald’s and continued on a nearby street before the attacker moved into the Olympia center—which lies not far from the scene of the 1972 Olympics massacre. Shoppers rushed away from the mall, some carrying children in their arms, as armed police and emergency vehicles surrounded the building while helicopters buzzed overhead.
The attack came just days after a teenage asylum seeker went on a rampage with an axe and a knife on a train on Monday near Wuerzburg, also in Bavaria, injuring five people. De Maiziere had said the teenager was believed to be a “lone wolf” who appeared to have been “inspired” by I.S. but was not a member of the jihadist network.
The train rampage triggered calls by politicians in Bavaria to impose an upper limit on the number of refugees coming into Germany, which accepted a record 1.1 million migrants and refugees last year. German President Joachim Gauck said he was horrified by the “murderous attack,” while Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere, who was on a flight to New York when the shooting began, said he will return to Germany.
U.S. President Barack Obama and French counterpart Francois Hollande voiced staunch support for their close ally. “Germany’s one of our closest allies, so we are going to pledge all the support that they may need in dealing with these circumstances,” Obama said, speaking before the nine deaths were confirmed. “The president of the republic offers his sympathy and support to the German people in this difficult hour,” Hollande said, according to a statement from the presidency.
Austria said it had “significantly” tightened security measures in states sharing a border with Germany and put its elite Cobra police force on high alert.
The Munich mall is near the stadium for the 1972 Olympics and the athletes’ village that was the site of the hostage taking and massacre of Israeli athletes by the Palestinian Black September group during the Games. The shooting coincides with the fifth anniversary of the massacre of 77 people in Norway by rightwing fanatic Anders Behring Breivik.
Europe has been on alert for terrorism in the wake of a string of attacks in neighboring France and Belgium claimed by the Islamic State jihadist group. The Mall shooting occurred just eight days after 31-year-old Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel used a truck to mow down 84 people, including children, in the French Riviera city of Nice. It was the third major attack on French soil in the past 18 months.
In March, I.S. claimed suicide bombings at Brussels airport and a city metro station that left 32 people dead. In May, a mentally unstable 27-year-old man carried out a knife attack on a regional train in Bavaria, killing one person and injuring three others.