Far-right motive suspected after deadly attack in Germany

Image: Forensic police at a crime scene in the centre of Hanau, near Frankf
Forensic police at a crime scene in the centre of Hanau, near Frankfurt am Main, western Germany, on Feb. 20. Copyright Thomas Lohnes
By Isobel van Hagen and The Associated Press with NBC News World News
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"Everything will be done to investigate the circumstances of these terrible murders," German Chancellor Angela Merkel said.

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel has condemned the deadly shootings in the German city of Hanau on Wednesday night and said they exposed the "poison" of racism in German society.

Speaking in Berlin Thursday morning, hours after a gunman killed 10 people in separate attacks outside hookah lounges and at a residence in the city before fatally shooting himself, Merkel confirmed that early indications suggested it was a racist, far-right attack.

"There are many indications at the moment that the perpetrator acted on right-wing extremist, racist motives, out of hatred towards people of other origins, religion or appearance," she said.

"Racism is poison, hatred is poison and this poison exists in society and it is to blame for too many crimes."

Merkel pledged to fight against those who try to divide the country along ethnic lines.

German federal prosecutors also said there were indications that the 43-year-old gunman had an extremist motive.

The gunman first attacked a hookah bar in central Hanau — a city close to Frankfurt — at about 10 p.m. Wednesday local time (6 p.m. ET), killing several people before heading about 1.5 miles west and opening fire again, claiming more victims.

Forensic police at a crime scene in the centre of Hanau, near Frankfurt am Main, western Germany, on Feb. 20.
Forensic police at a crime scene in the centre of Hanau, near Frankfurt am Main, western Germany, on Feb. 20.Thomas Lohnes

Witnesses and surveillance videos of the suspect's getaway car led authorities quickly to his home, near the scene of the second attack, where he was found dead near his 72-year-old mother, who had also been shot dead, said Peter Beuth, the interior minister for the state of Hesse, according to the Associated Press.

Material including a website believed to have been created by the suspect is being evaluated, Beuth said.

"Initial analysis of the web page of the suspect indicate a xenophobic motivation," he said. It did not appear, however, that the suspect was known either to police or Germany's domestic intelligence agency, he added.

Hanau's federal MP, Katja Leikert, called the attack a "horrific scenario" in a tweet in which she offered her "heartfelt condolences" to the victims.

The incident comes as Germany is on high alert due to concerns about the rise of the far-right groups. Germany's far-right party Alternative for Germany (AfD) has disrupted the final stages of Angela Merkel's four-term chancellorship.

In October, a deadly gun attack on a synagogue in the eastern city of Halle on Yom Kippur underscored the rising threat of neo-Nazi violence. The attack, in which two people were shot dead, was streamed live.

Last June, conservative politician Walter Luebcke — an advocate of a liberal refugee policy — was shot at his home.

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