MUNICH (AP) — Police hunted for an unknown number of gunmen who opened fire in a Munich shopping mall and at a nearby McDonald’s Friday, killing eight people and wounding others in a rampage they described as suspected terrorism. Authorities urged residents to remain inside and put the Bavarian capital on lockdown.
“At the moment no culprit has been arrested,” police said on social media as Germany’s elite GSG9 anti-terror unit and federal police were called in to help in the manhunt. “The search is taking place at high speed.”
Witnesses reported seeing three men with firearms near the Olympia Einkaufszentrum mall, one of Munich’s largest.
In addition to the dead, at least 10 people were hospitalized. Munich police spokesman Marcus Martins said a ninth body had been found and police were “intensively examining” whether it might be one of the suspects. That body was found near the attack scene but authorities but police did not say exactly where it was.
The city sent a smartphone alert declaring an “emergency situation” and telling people to stay indoors and German rail company Deutsche Bahn stopped train traffic to Munich’s main station.
It was the third major act of violence against civilians in Western Europe in eight days. The previous attacks, in the French resort city of Nice and on a train in Bavaria, were claimed by the Islamic State group.
While police called the mall shooting an act of terrorism, they said they had “no indication” it involved Islamic extremism and at least one witness said he heard a shooter shout an anti-foreigner slur.
The attack started at a fast food restaurant shortly before 6 p.m. local time, police said.
Video obtained by The Associated Press from German news agency NonstopNews showed two bodies with sheets draped over them not far from a McDonald’s across from the mall. Another video posted online shows a gunman emerging from the door of the McDonald’s, raising what appears to be a pistol with both hands, and aiming at people on the sidewalk, firing as they flee in terror.
Witness Luan Zequiri said he was in the mall when the shooting started Friday.
He told German broadcaster n-tv that he heard the attacker yell an anti-foreigner slur and “there was a really loud scream.”
He said he saw only one attacker, who was wearing jack boots and a backpack.
“I looked in his direction and he shot two people on the stairs,” Zequiri said. 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.
Germany’s Interior Ministry said Munich police had set up a hotline for concerned citizens. Residents of Munich opened their doors to people seeking shelter using the Twitter hashtag #opendoor.
Also on Twitter, police asked people to refrain from speculating about 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’s 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 noted that Friday was the fifth anniversary of the massacre in Oslo, Norway, by a far-right extremist that killed 77 people, 69 of them at a youth summer camp.
“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.”
Police responded in large numbers to the mall in the northern part of Munich, not far from the city’s Olympic Stadium in the Moosach district of the Bavarian capital.
It was also not far from where Palestinian attackers opened fire in the Olympic Village in 1972, killing 11 Israeli athletes. Five guerrillas and a police officer were also killed. The GSG9 anti-terrorism unit was created after that attack, though the city saw a worse one in 1980, when 13 people were killed and more than 200 injured at the city’s annual Oktoberfest in a bombing blamed on a student with ties to a neo-Nazi group.
It was 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.
Gun attacks in Germany are uncommon. Firearm ownership is widespread but they are strictly regulated, with purchasers first having to take training courses in order to be granted a permit to own one. Many types of firearms are banned.
In the U.S., President Barack Obama pledged to provide Germany with whatever help it might need to investigate the mall shooting.
Jordans reported from Berlin. Associated Press staffers David Rising and Ferdinand Ostrop contributed from Berlin and Jennifer Farrar from New York.
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