German federal prosecutors are investigating possible far-right motivation behind attacks on two hookah bars in Germany on Wednesday evening, which left nine people dead.
The gunman opened fire in two shisha bars at around 10pm local time in the town of Hanau, about 25km (15 miles) east of the financial hub of Frankfurt, killing nine people. After killing three in the first bar, he reportedly drove to the second bar, where he shot five people dead.
Police identified the suspect’s address from eyewitnesses who saw his car, and stormed his apartment in Hanau hours later, where they found him dead. They also found the body of his 72-year-old mother in the apartment. Police said in a statement that the suspect shot himself and his mother at home.
“From what we know so far a xenophobic motive is the most likely," Peter Beuth, the interior minister for the state of Hessen, told the press on Thursday. Beuth said the man was not known to the police beforehand.
The alleged attacker, named as 43-year old German Tobias R, had reportedly published an hour-long video in which he claimed that Germany was controlled by a secret service with extensive capabilities, and made negative comments about migrants from Arab countries and Turkey.
The death toll from the attack remains at 11, with five more victims currently hospitalised with severe injuries. According to reports, the clientele in both shisha bars were Kurdish.
Germany’s gun laws are extremely strict, but people with hunting licences are allowed to have firearms, if they are properly locked up at home.
Wednesday’s attack comes days after a person was shot dead in Berlin, outside a concert venue which was hosting a Turkish comedy night.
“Thoughts this morning are with the people of Hanau, in whose midst this terrible crime was committed,” chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert said on Twitter. He tweeted that Merkel had cancelled her trip to Halle in eastern Germany today because of the murders.
Germany is grappling with a growing right-wing extremist problem. Authorities saying in December that there are at least 12,000 people in the country who are classed as right-wing extremists, a number of them are “potentially violent.”
In October, a German man with far-right motivation attacked a synagogue in the city of Halle. Failing to enter the synagogue, he shot dead two passers-by on the street.
In July 2019, politician Walter Lübke was shot dead at his home by a far-right extremist, who had a criminal record and ties to far-right groups.