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Man suspected of killing petrol station cashier in Germany after face mask row

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By Euronews with AP
A woman walks past a sign painted on the sidewalk indicating that use of face masks is mandatory, at a busy crossing in Berlin on March 10, 2021
A woman walks past a sign painted on the sidewalk indicating that use of face masks is mandatory, at a busy crossing in Berlin on March 10, 2021   -   Copyright  Credit: AFP
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A man has been arrested on suspicion of murder in connection with the shooting of a petrol station worker in Germany following a dispute over face masks.

Authorities in the western town of Trier said the suspect told police officers he acted “out of anger” after the 20-year-old clerk asked him to put on a covering.

He had gone to the petrol station in Idar-Oberstein to buy some beer late on Saturday evening.

“He further stated during interrogation that he rejected the measures against the coronavirus.” according to the police statement.

A requirement to wear masks is among the measures in place in Germany to stop the spread of the COVID-19.

According to police, the suspect initially left the petrol station after the dispute in the town of Idar-Oberstein, but then returned wearing a mask and shot the clerk dead, before fleeing.

The suspect, a 49-year-old German citizen from Idar-Oberstein, wasn't identified by name in line with privacy laws.

During a search of his house, investigators found the suspected murder weapon as well as other firearms and ammunition.

The governor of Rhineland-Palatinate state, Malu Dreyer, said she was "deeply shocked" and called for the incident to be thoroughly investigated.

The mayor of Idar-Oberstein, Frank Frühauf, also denounced the shooting as a "terrible" act and local residents have laid flowers and candles outside the petrol station.

There have been regular protests, some violent, against Germany's pandemic restrictions over the past year.

One driving force behind the protests is the loose-knit Querdenken movement, which includes people who oppose masks and vaccines, conspiracy theorists, and some far-right extremists.

Facebook last week removed almost 150 accounts and pages linked to the Querdenken movement under a new policy focused on groups that spread misinformation or incite violence, but who don’t fit into the platform’s existing categories of bad actors.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has condemned the killing as "heinous," while health minister Jens Spahn also Jens Spahn reporters in Berlin that it was a "cold-blooded murder".

"This has a lot to do with the incitement, the hatred, that is posted on social media," Spahn added.

A Twitter account linked to the suspect in Idar-Oberstein followed several prominent far-right politicians and COVID-19 conspiracy theorists.