German Interior Minister: Hanau terrorist attack motivated by racism, neo-Nazis have attacked three times in just a few months
The massacre in Hanau, according to German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, was unequivocally a terrorist attack motivated by racism - what's more, it is the third right-wing extremist attack committed during the last few months. Speaking at a press conference yesterday in Berlin, he said that right-wing extremism currently poses the greatest danger to Germany.
Seehofer also warned that somebody might attempt to copy the attack. Germany is tightening its security measures in response.
"The threat that is posed by antisemitism, racism and right-wing extremism is very high in Germany," the Interior Minister said, adding that there is a "bloody trail of right-wing extremism" leading from the murders committed by the neo-Nazi group called the National Socialist Underground (NSU) between 2000 and 2007 until today. Seehofer recalled last year's murder of a regional politician with the governing Christian Democrats, Walter Lübcke, and the attack on the synagogue in the eastern town of Halle, during which two people died.
Radical right-wingers are suspected of having committed both those attacks as well as the one this week. Because of the attack in Hanau (which is near Frankfurt) during which a 43-year-old German shot nine people of migrant origin in the late hours of Wednesday evening, Germany is tightening its protection of "sensitive facilities" including mosques.
More police officers will be deployed to train stations, airports and the borders. Seehofer did not say how long the measures are planned for.
Among the victims - who according to eyewitnesses were shot in the area of the head - there were five citizens of Turkey, according to Ankara, while according to Bucharest a Romanian citizen was also among the victims. According to news server Romea.cz's investigation of social media, one of the victims in the second bar was also a 35-year-old Romani woman.
Romani Facebook users have been sharing videos of their discussion of the incident. The death of the Romani woman was confirmed by the Central Council of German Sinti and Roma, which stated that the young Romani woman was a German citizen who also had Polish roots.
"The Central Council and all Roma and Sinti in Germany are in mourning for the murdered young woman, a mother of two. We are also holding all of the victims of this right-wing terrorist attack in our thoughts," Romani Rose, chair of the Central Council of German Sinti and Roma, told the German media.
The Romani victim, Mercedes K., was killed by a gunshot wound to the chest. "I heard from relatives and friends that she was killed," German media quoted a friend of the murdered woman as saying.
"I didn't want to believe it, but then I saw the videos of her family weeping," the friend of Mercedes told the German media. "After the Holocaust, how can something so inhumane happen?"
Supreme State Prosecutor Peter Frank, who is leading the investigation of these crimes, said he is convinced the suspected perpetrator held a "deeply racist world view". Today he referred to a pamphlet authored by the gunman, Tobias Rathjen, which sings the praises of Germans, discusses the "purity" of the "race", and alleges that it is necessary to exterminate the inhabitants of many other countries.
According to Frank, officers are continuing to track down and assess evidence in Rathjen's apartment in Hanau, where he was found dead in the early morning hours of Thursday along with his 72-year-old mother, who was also dead. Both had been shot.
One aim of the police work is to ascertain what exactly happened in the apartment. Police also found Rathjen's father there, unharmed.
For the time being, police are considering the suspect's father to be a witness in the case. In the coming days and weeks police will also investigate how it is possible that the target shooter, who was mentally ill and had paranoid ideas, did not attract the authorities' attention sooner.
For example, in November last year Rathjen sent a report of a crime to the Supreme State Prosecutor expressing the conviction that a practically omnipotent secret service exists which is capable of controlling people's brains. The Interior Minister said yesterday that an enormous problem is posed by the remarks made by some politicians from the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, statements which range from populist to radically right wing and that relativize the era of the Holocaust and Nazism, for example.
Such ideas, according to the Interior Minister, are fertile ground for extremists, who are able to feel encouraged by them. Lars Klingbeil, the Secretary-General of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD), which is in the governing coalition, said he believes the AfD gave the gunman from Hanau "munition" in a metaphorical sense and is demanding that the counter-intelligence service begin investigating the anti-immigration party.
The AfD is being sharply criticized by other politicians, representatives of the church, and political scientists. The German counter-intelligence service is still in the phase of deciding whether the party - which rejects the criticism and says the perpetrator in this case was mentally deranged - should be followed as a whole.
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