MUNICH, GERMANY (AFP/REUTERS) – A German-Iranian teenager who shot dead nine people in Munich was a deranged lone gunman obsessed with mass killings who drew no inspiration from Islamist militancy, police said on Saturday (July 23).
The 18-year-old, born and raised locally, opened fire near a busy shopping mall on Friday evening, triggering a lockdown in the Bavarian state capital.
Seven of his victims were themselves teenagers, who police said he may have lured to their deaths via a hacked Facebook account on what was the fifth anniversary of twin attacks by Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik that killed 77 people.
The Munich shooting, in which a further 27 people were wounded, some seriously, was the third act of violence against civilians in Western Europe – and the second in southern Germany - in eight days.
Bavarian state crime office president Robert Heimberger said the gunman, who German media named as Ali David Sonboly, was carrying more than 300 bullets in his backpack and pistol when he was later found dead of a gunshot wound.
Following a police search of the attacker’s room, where a book on teenage shooting sprees was discovered, Munich police chief Hubertus Andrae all but ruled out an Islamist militant link in the attack.
“Based on the searches, there are no indications whatsoever that there is a connection to Islamic State” or to the issue of refugees, he told a news conference. “Documents on shooting sprees were found, so the perpetrator obviously researched this subject intensively.”
The gunman was born and brought up in the Munich area and had spent time in psychiatric care, and there was no evidence to suggest he had had an accomplice, Andrae said.
Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said it was also too early to associate the Munich shootings with Breivik, who in 2011 shot dead 69 attendees at a youth summer camp hours after murdering eight others by detonating a van bomb in Oslo.
Robert Heimberger, president of the Bavarian state criminal agency, told the news conference police were investigating findings suggesting the Munich gunman invited people to a fast food restaurant at the mall via the Facebook account.
“(He) said he would treat them to what they wanted as long as it wasn’t too expensive – that was the invitation,” Heimberger said. He added that this still needed to be verified, but there were many clues suggesting the attacker had set up the invitation and sent it or posted it online.
Turkey’s foreign minister said three Turkish citizens were among nine people killed in the Munich attack while Greece’s foreign ministry said one Greek was among the dead.
According to foreign media reports, there were also three Kosovo Albanian victims.
Chancellor Angela Merkel said she was “mourning with a heavy heart” for those killed, and that the security services would do everything to ensure the public was safe.
Bavarian Premier Horst Seehofer said the killings - together with an axe attack by a 17-year-old asylum-seeker that injured five people in Wuerzburg, also in Bavaria, on Monday - should not be allowed to undermine democratic freedoms.
“For the second time in a few days we’ve been shaken by an incomprehensible bloodbath... Uncertainty and fear must not be allowed to gain the upper hand,” a visibly distressed Seehofer told reporters.
Both the Wuerzburg attack, and the Bastille Day rampage by a truck driver in Nice, France that killed 84 people on July 14, were claimed by Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants.
‘WHY KIDS KILL’
The Munich gunman, whose father a neighbour said had worked as a taxi driver, had no criminal record but had been a victim of theft in 2010 and assault in 2012, police said.
De Maiziere said there were indications the killer had been bullied “by others his age”.https://twitter.com/dotemirateseng/status/756557475495763971
Police commandos, armed with night vision equipment and dogs, raided an apartment in the Munich neighbourhood of Maxvorstadt early on Saturday, where a neighbour told Reuters the gunman had lived with his parents for about four years.
In the killer’s room, police found a German translation of a book entitled Why Kids Kill – Inside The Minds Of School Shooters.
Asked if the gunman had deliberately targeted young people, Munich police chief Andrae said that theory could be neither confirmed or ruled out.
Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann said there were several signs he had been suffering from “not insignificant psychological troubles.”
Three of his victims were 14 years old, two were 15, one was 17 and one 19. The others were 20 and 45, the police chief said.
Police will also have to find out how the 18-year-old obtained the firearm in a country whose gun control system is described by the US Library of Congress as being “among the most stringent in Europe”.
“The investigation is still trying to determine where it came from,” Heimberger said, adding that the assailant was not the registered owner of the gun.
“I am shocked. What happened to the boy? Only God knows what happened,” Telfije Dalipi, a 40-year-old Macedonian neighbour, told Reuters. “I have no idea if he did anything bad elsewhere.”
Neighbours said there were no warning signs before his deadly rampage. He was described as quiet, helpful teenager who loved playing video games.
BLOODBATH IN MUNICH
In Pristina, media said three of the 18-year-old’s victims were of Kosovan origin. Naim Zabergja, the father of one of the victims wrote on Facebook: “With great sadness I want to inform you that my son Dijamant Zabergja, 21, was killed yesterday in Munich.”
A second victim was named by her brother on Facebook as Armela Segashi, who he said died along with a third, Sabina Sulaj.
“Bloodbath in Munich,” was the headline on the best-selling Bild newspaper as shockwaves reverberated across the continent.
Grieving Munich residents laid roses and lit candles in memory of the victims, with one placard bearing the simple plea: “Why?”
The killing spree sent the southern city into lockdown as elite police launched a massive operation to track down what had initially been thought to be up to three assailants.
Armed with a handgun, the attacker opened fire at a McDonald’s restaurant and continued along the street before entering the mall.
A police patrol shot and wounded the gunman but he managed to escape, before police found the body of what they believed was the “only shooter.”
A video posted on social media appeared to show a man in black walking away from a McDonald’s while firing repeatedly on people as they fled screaming.
Another video appeared to show the gunman on a car park roof exchanging a tirade of insults with a man on a nearby balcony.
“I’m German, I was born here,” the assailant replies after the man fired off a volley of swear words, including an offensive term for foreigners.
US intelligence officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said initial reports from their German counterparts indicated no apparent link between the shooter and Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) or other militant groups.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility but supporters of ISIS celebrated on social media. “The Islamic State is expanding in Europe,” read one tweet.
Survivors described terrifying scenes as shoppers rushed from the area, some carrying children in their arms.
“We entered McDonald’s to eat... then there was panic, and people ran out,” one woman told Bavarian television.
Police initially believed there could be up to three assailants. But Andrae later said two others had “absolutely nothing to do” with the attack – and that they were simply fleeing the scene.
Munich’s main train station was evacuated and metro and bus transport suspended for several hours while residents were ordered to stay inside, leaving the streets largely deserted.
By early Saturday, transport services were running again.
President Joachim Gauck said he was horrified by the “murderous attack”, while US President Barack Obama voiced staunch support for Washington’s close ally.
“Our thoughts are with the victims, their families, and all German people. Europe stands united,” EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said on Twitter.
The attack came just days after a 17-year-old asylum seeker went on a rampage with an axe and a knife on a train on Monday near Wuerzburg, also in Bavaria, injuring five people.
Andrae said authorities did not see any similarities to that attack, which was claimed by the ISIS group.
The train attack triggered calls by some politicians to impose an upper limit on the number of refugees coming into Germany, which accepted a record 1.1 million migrants and refugees last year, many through Bavaria.
The Munich mall is near the stadium for the 1972 Olympics and the athletes’ village which was the site of the hostage-taking of Israeli athletes by the Palestinian Black September group that ended in a massacre.
Europe has been on high alert for terrorism after a string of attacks in neighbouring France and Belgium claimed by ISIS.
“It has reached us. People in Munich have long had a queasy feeling. Fears grew with every attack in Paris, Istanbul or Brussels,” said the Abendzeitung newspaper’s editor-in-chief Michael Schilling.
“There were particular concerns about the Oktoberfest. But since Friday it is clear that there can be no security anywhere, not even in the safest German city.”