(Hamburg) German police reported on Friday a death toll of eight in the shooting targeting an office of Jehovah’s Witnesses, including “obviously” the alleged perpetrator of the killing, a former member of this community according to the press.
The latter “shot at the participants in a demonstration” of prayers organized Thursday evening by the community in one of its centers in Hamburg, in the north of the country, said the police.
Other people were injured, “some of them seriously”, she added, referring for more details to a press conference scheduled for midday.
Several German media speak of eight seriously injured.
According to the magazine Der Spiegelthe alleged perpetrator of the shots is a former member of Jehovah’s Witnesses, aged about 30, and he was armed with a pistol.
He forced his way into the three-story building located at the edge of a major traffic artery facing a residential complex and a park. About fifty people according to Der Spiegel were then gathered for the prayer session.
“Our son filmed everything, by chance, he could see well from the window on the floor of our house, about 50 meters” from the center, Bernd Mibache told AFP.
“On the video, we see someone breaking a window, we hear gunshots and we see someone entering” on the scene, describes the 66-year-old entrepreneur who was not at home at the time of the events. .
Jehovah’s Witnesses said in a statement “shocked” by “the horrible attack” against some of their members, which occurred “after a religious service”.
The police have indicated that they favor the trail of a single shooter.
They “were called around 9:15 p.m. (3:15 p.m. Eastern Time) to reports of shots being fired” at the building in the Gross Borstel neighborhood, a police spokesman said.
The intervention forces “entered the building very quickly and found dead and seriously injured people there”, according to this spokesperson.
Inside, officers also heard a gunshot “coming from the top of the building” and found another person, the spokesperson continued. It was obviously the shooter.
“I heard gunshots, I recognized them straight away, because I come from a country at war,” a woman in her forties told AFP, wishing to remain anonymous. residing near the center.
“It went on for several minutes, gunfire then a pause, and again gunfire, and again a pause,” she describes.
“The police arrived very quickly, maybe 4 to 5 minutes after the shots,” said Anetta, a local resident met by AFP while walking her dog.
‘Terrible act of violence’
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz sent his “thoughts” to the victims of the shooting and their loved ones on Friday, deploring in a tweet “a brutal act of violence”.
Interior Minister Nancy Faeser also reacted on Twitter saying she was “shattered by the terrible act of violence perpetrated in a community of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Hamburg”.
Founded in the 19the 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 legally considered the same as the “major” religions in Austria and Germany, which has just over 170,000 members of this faith. , 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.