Tragic shooting at Jehovah's Witness Centre leaves several dead

Police stand outside a Jehovah´s Witnesses church where several people have been killed in a shooting in Hamburg, northern Germany, on late March 9, 2023. AFP
Police stand outside a Jehovah´s Witnesses church where several people have been killed in a shooting in Hamburg, northern Germany, on late March 9, 2023. AFP

HAMBURG: Several people have been killed in a shooting at a Jehovah’s Witness centre in Hamburg, with the gunman believed to be among the dead, German police said Thursday. 

The first emergency calls were made around 2015 GMT after shots rang out at the building in northern Hamburg, a police spokesman at the scene said.

"Several people were seriously injured, some even fatally," police said on Twitter.

"At the moment there is no reliable information on the motive of the crime," they added, urging people not to speculate.

Police sounded the alarm for "extreme danger" in the area using a catastrophe warning app.

Residents must stay indoors and avoid the area, police said, adding that streets surrounding the building had been cordoned off.

Police did not give an exact death toll, but several German media outlets said at least six people had been killed.

The first police at the scene found several lifeless bodies and seriously wounded people.

They also heard a shot in the "upper part of the building" before finding a body in the area where it rang out.

"We have no indications of a perpetrator on the run," said the police spokesman.

Instead, officers have "indications that a perpetrator may have been in the building and may be even among the dead."

The spokesman added that the person uncovered in the upper part of the building was "possibly" the perpetrator.

In the non-descript, three-storey building, police said an event had been taking place on Thursday evening.

Local daily Hamburger Abendblatt reported that 17 unhurt people, who had been at the event, were being attended to by the fire brigade.

Some 175,000 people in Germany, including 3,800 in Hamburg, are Jehovah’s Witnesses, a US Christian movement set up in the late 19th century that preaches non-violence and is known for door-to-door evangelism.

The port city’s mayor, Peter Tschentscher, expressed shock at the shooting on Twitter.

Sending his sympathies to the victims’ families, he said emergency services were doing their utmost to clarify the situation.

Hit by attacks

Germany has been rocked by several attacks in recent years. Among the deadliest committed was a truck rampage at a Berlin Christmas market in December 2016 that killed 12 people.

The Tunisian attacker, a failed asylum seeker, was a supporter of the Daesh group.

Europe’s most populous nation remains a target for terrorist groups in particular because of its participation in the anti-Daesh coalition in Iraq and Syria.

Between 2013 and 2021, the number of considered dangerous in the country had multiplied by five to 615, according to interior ministry data.

Germany has been hit by several far-right assaults in recent years, sparking accusations that the government was not doing enough to stamp out neo-Nazi violence.

In February 2020, a far-right extremist shot dead 10 people and wounded five others in the central German city of Hanau.

And in 2019, two people were killed after a neo-Nazi tried to storm a synagogue in Halle on the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur.