By dpa correspondents l Friday, March 10, 2023
HAMBURG, Germany – Not less than seven people were killed, following shooting at the Hamburg-Winterhude Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses on Thursday after their midweek meeting.
Those killed during the shooting are four brothers, two sisters, and a sister’s unborn child.
“Several other brothers and sisters were injured. Local elders are providing spiritual comfort to the family members and friends of those affected. We appreciate the courageous help provided by the police and emergency services. Our prayers are with all those affected by the attack. We are confident that Jehovah, the God of peace, will continue to be a refuge and strength in this time of distress.—Psalm 9:9; 46:1; Philippians 4:9”, Jw.org, the official website of the Jehovah’s Witnesses said of the shooting .
The perpetrator of the deadly shooting at the Kingdom Hall in the north German city of Hamburg was alleged to be a former member of the religious community, police revealed on Friday, adding that he had a valid gun permit for the murder weapon.
As police investigations at the crime scene continued, Hamburg’s Senator of the Interior Andy Grote in a press conference described the killings as “the worst crime in the recent history of our city,”
The attacker was named by police and prosecutors as a 35-year-old German citizen, Philipp F. He had left the community voluntarily a year and a half ago, according to officials at a press conference on Friday. Police said those killed by the shooter on Thursday evening were four men, two women and an unborn child. The mother, who survived but was severely injured, was 28 weeks pregnant. The victims were between 33 and 60 years old.
Another eight people were injured, four of them severely, police said. The rampage took place on Thursday evening in a Jehovah’s Witnesses community building in the northern Groß Borstel district of Hamburg.
The perpetrator shot himself after the police entered the building, according to the authorities. His motive remains unclear. Grote said police had “very likely” saved lives with their “fast and decisive” action. “A crime of this dimension – we have never seen it before,” he said.
The perpetrator was a sports shooter who had been in possession of a gun permit since December last year, police chief Ralf Martin Meyer said during the press conference.
“Since December 12, he had thus been in legal possession of a semi-automatic pistol.” This, he said, was the murder weapon. The 35-year-old fired many shots on Thursday evening. “In total, he fired nine magazines of 15 bullets each,” said top Hamburg security official Thomas Radszuweit.
More ammunition was found at his home, said chief prosecutor Ralf Peter Anders. A laptop and smartphones were seized during the raid overnight, just hours after shooting.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said he was “stunned in the face of this violence.”
“My thoughts are with the victims and their families in these difficult hours. We mourn those who were so brutally torn from life,” he said on Friday. It was a “brutal act of violence,” Scholz said, adding: “It is to be feared that further victims will succumb to their severe injuries.”
German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser plans to visit the scene of the fatal shooting later on Friday. The minister wanted to personally thank the police officers and rescue workers for their efforts in this difficult situation, said spokesperson Maximilian Kall.
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier reacted “with great horror.”
“My thoughts are with the dead and their families. My deepest sympathy goes out to them on this day of pain,” Steinmeier wrote on Twitter through his spokesperson. The Jehovah’s Witnesses group said they were “deeply saddened.”
“Our deepest sympathy goes to the families of the victims as well as the traumatized eyewitnesses. The pastors of the local congregation are doing their best to assist them in this difficult hour,” it said in a statement on the community’s website.
French President Emmanuel Macron and EU Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson also sent their condolences to the relatives of the victims.