Deadly Shooting At Jehovah’s Witnesses Center In Germany

Several people were killed and others seriously injured in a shooting Thursday night at a center of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Hamburg, police said.

No exact assessment of the attack has been given at this stage.

Several media, including the daily Bild, which evokes a “bloodbath”, claim that the shooting would have left seven dead and eight seriously injured.

The police announced on Twitter overnight that they had discovered a body “in a parish house in Gross Borstel and we believe it could be the author” of the shootings. “At this stage, it is assumed that there was only one shooter,” they said.

“A large number of law enforcement agencies are” on the site of the Jehovah’s Witnesses center, Hamburg police added on Twitter.

The Federal Office for Civil Protection lifted overnight, shortly after 3 a.m. local time, the official danger alert triggered in the event of an attack to dissuade residents from leaving their homes.

Intervention Forces

Jehovah’s Witnesses had been meeting since 7 p.m. for a weekly meeting devoted to Bible study, according to the daily Hamburger Abendblatt.

Law enforcement “were called around 9:15 p.m. to report shots fired in the” three-story building, located in the Gross Borstel district, north of Germany’s second-largest city, a report said. police spokesperson on the NTV channel.

The intervention forces “entered the building very quickly and found dead and seriously injured people there”, according to this spokesman.

Inside, the agents also heard a shot “coming from the upper part of the building” and found another person, continued the spokesperson, stressing “not being able to give any indications yet”. on mobile.

“In the evening, there was a demonstration of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the building,” he added.

“The news from Alsterdorf/Gross Borstel is heartbreaking,” Alsterdorf mayor Social Democrat Peter Tschentscher tweeted. “The intervention forces are working hard to pursue the perpetrators and to clarify the context”.

Founded in the 19th century in the United States, Jehovah’s Witnesses consider themselves the heirs of primitive Christianity and constantly and only refer to the Bible.

The status of the organization varies from country to country: they are considered the same as the “great” religions in Austria and Germany, which has around 175,000 members, including 3,800 in Hamburg, according to the Witnesses website. .

In France, many of their local branches have the status of “cult association”, and this rigorous movement is regularly accused of sectarian aberrations.

If the motive for the shooting remains unknown at this stage, the German authorities have remained on the alert in recent years in the face of a double terrorist threat, jihadism and right-wing extremism.

Germany has been the victim of jihadist attacks, in particular a ram truck attack claimed by the Islamic State group which killed 12 people in December 2016 in Berlin. This jihadist attack is the deadliest ever committed on German soil.

Double Threat

Since 2013 and until the end of 2021, the number of Islamists considered dangerous in Germany has increased fivefold to currently stand at 615, according to the Interior Ministry. That of the Salafists is estimated at around 11,000, twice as many as in 2013.

Another threat hangs over Germany, embodied by the far right, after several deadly attacks in recent years targeting community or religious places.

In the racist attack in Hanau, near Frankfurt (west), perpetrated in February 2020, a German involved in the conspiracy movement had killed nine young people, all of foreign origin. In 2019, an extremist attempted to carry out carnage at a synagogue in Halle on the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur. He had not been able to enter the place of worship but had killed two passers-by before being arrested.

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