A suspected terror attack on a Munich shopping mall Friday left at least nine people dead, including a possible gunman, and at least 10 others injured while triggering a massive search for other shooters that locked down one of Europe’s major cities.
Authorities said they were investigating whether one of the victims near the Olympia Einkaufszentrum mall was an attacker who had committed suicide. Munich police told Fox News the body of a possible gunman was found more than half a mile away from the shopping center.
Reuters, citing the Bayerischer Rundfunk (BR) TV channel, reported that police were using a robot to investigate a red backpack found near the body.
Earlier, police spokesman Peter Beck told reporters that authorities were searching for three shooters, whom he described as “on the run” and “dangerous.” He added that the gunmen were armed with rifles and that Islamist terrorism was not suspected as a motive.
The wounded were taken to different hospitals around the city, which police said was preventing a complete tally of the injured.
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Germany’s elite GSG9 anti-terror police, as well as federal police, were called in to help with the search. Munich’s transit system was shut down and police asked people to avoid public places. The U.S. Consulate in Munich echoed that warning, advising American citizens to “shelter in place”. Highways heading out of the city were closed and vehicle checkpoints were established.
“At the moment no culprit has been arrested,” Munich police said on social media. “The search is taking place at high speed.”
The attack took place on the fifth anniversary of attacks in Norway by far-right extremist Anders Behring Breivik, who killed 77 people in a gun and bomb attack on a Labour party retreat, as well as the center of Oslo.
Munich police spokesman Thomas Baumann told dpa the attack started at a fast food restaurant in the mall shortly before 6 p.m. local time.
A video posted on social media showed one gunman opening fire on the sidewalk outside a McDonald’s restaurant across from the mall. Another video obtained by The Associated Press from German news agency NonstopNews showed two bodies with sheets draped over them not far from the restaurant.
Witness Luan Zequiri told German broadcaster NTV that he heard the attacker yell an anti-foreigner slur and “there was a really loud scream.” He added that he saw only one gunman, who was wearing boots and a backpack.
“I looked in his direction and he shot two people on the stairs,” Zequiri told the station. He said he hid in a shop, then ran outside when the coast was clear and saw bodies of the dead and wounded on the ground.
“Many shots were fired, I can’t say how many but it’s been a lot,” an employee at the mall told NTV, according to Reuters. “All the people from outside came streaming into the store and I only saw one person on the ground who was so severely injured that he definitely didn’t survive.”
With Munich’s transit system shut down at the height of the Friday evening rush hour, residents opened their homes to people seeking shelter using the Twitter hashtag (hash)opendoor.
Germany’s Interior Ministry said Munich police had set up a hotline for concerned citizens. On Twitter, police asked people to refrain from speculating on the attack. Germany’s interior minister cut short his holiday in the United States to go back to Berlin late Friday to meet with security officials.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel was being regularly briefed on the attack, said her chief of staff, Peter Altmaier.
“All that we know and can say right now is that it was a cruel and inhumane attack,” he said on German public channel ARD. “We can’t rule out that there are terrorist links. We can’t confirm them, but we are investigating along those lines too.”
Altmaier said numerous attacks had been prevented in Germany in recent years, “but, and this is important, there can never be absolute security.
“You can only have absolute security in an absolute surveillance state, and nobody wants that, it would be the opposite of our free western European way of life,” he said. “But, and this became clear again today, we can’t talk down this danger. It’s a danger that many countries are exposed, especially in the west, and that’s why it’s important to give our security agencies the instruments they need.”
In Washington, the White House issued a statement condemning the attack on what it called “the heart of one of Europe’s most vibrant cities.”
“The resolve of Germany, the United States, and the broader international community will remain unshaken in the face of acts of despicable violence such as this,” the statement concluded.
The mall is located in the northern part of Munich is not far from the city’s Olympic Stadium in the Moosach district of the Bavarian capital. It is also not far from where Palestinian attackers opened fire in the Olympic Village in 1972, killing 11 Israeli athletes.
It’s the second attack in Germany in less than a week. On Monday, a 17-year-old Afghan wounded four people in an ax-and-knife attack on a regional train near the Bavarian city of Wuerzburg, and another woman outside as he fled. All survived, although one man from the train remains in life-threatening condition. The attacker was shot and killed by police.
The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the train attack, but authorities have said the teen likely acted alone.