One person was arrested in connection with a shooting and grenade attack that left two people dead in the eastern German city of Halle and has prompted German authorities to say they are dealing with an ongoing “rampage situation”.
Federal anti-terrorism prosecutors have taken over the investigation and police have warned the public to remain alert as other assailants may still be at large after several people escaped the scene in one or more cars.
A dpa reporter saw one of the two victims of the attack lying about 30 metres away from a local synagogue. The body was covered with a blue blanket.
Security at the synagogue managed to prevent one or more armed assailants from entering, local Jewish community leader, Max Privorotzki, told the Spiegel news outlet. Privorotzki said there were between 70 and 80 worshippers inside the synagogue at the time.
The incident coincides with Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year in Judaism, and comes amid a heated public debate about the safety of Jews in Germany. Anti-Semitic crimes, especially violent ones, are on the rise in the country.
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Shortly after the deaths and the arrest were announced, a German police spokeswoman said shots had been fired in Landsberg, a town some 15 kilometres away from Halle.
She did not give further details. Police in both Halle and Landsberg urged residents to remain indoors. They said on Twitter that those on the streets should seek shelter. Witnesses in Halle said that one of the assailants had worn combat gear and had been armed with an automatic weapon.
“The man came towards the kebab shop. “He was wearing a balaclava and carrying an assault rifle. “He threw a grenade, which bounced off the shop’s doorframe and exploded in front of another guest on the floor,’’ a witness told German broadcaster n-tv.
The witness, who had been ordering a kebab at the time of the incident, said he hid in the shop’s toilet, texted his family that he loved them and only came out once he was asked to do so by police. Other witnesses said that a suspect had thrown a grenade into a nearby Jewish cemetery.
The city’s main train station was closed down due to an active police investigation, rail operator, Deutsche Bahn, said. The operator added that all trains to and from that location would be delayed.
The European Parliament held a minute’s silence for the victims in the Halle attack at the start of its plenary session in Brussels on Wednesday.