Terror in GermanyEleven Dead in Far-Right Terror Attack in the city of Hanau

Published 20 February 2020

A far-right terrorist killed nine people late Wednesday in attacks on two shisha bars in the city of Hanau, near Frankfurt. Shisha bars are popular meeting places for Germans of Kurdish origin. The killer – who killed his mother and then committed suicide after the attacks – left a letter in which he took responsibility for the killing. In the letter, and in posts on social media – in German on Facebook, and in English on YouTube – the gunman railed against the “mainstream media” and expressed his belief in several conspiracy theories popular in far-right circles around the world. Wednesday attacks continue a worrisome trend of a sharp increase in far-right terrorism in Germany, a trend which has brought about a reorientation of counterterrorism efforts in Germany; the creation of a new unit within the German domestic intelligence service – staffed with 600 counterterrorism specialists — dedicated to monitoring far-right extremism in the country, the expansion of police surveillance powers; and the tightening of gun-ownership laws.

Two shootings late Wednesday in the German city of Hanau, a city of 100,000 inhabitants fifteen miles east of Frankfurt, left at least eleven people dead and four people injured.

Nine people were killed in attacks on two shisha bars — restaurants catering to the large Kurdish community in Germany. The restaurants were in two different parts of the city. The body of the gunmen and his 72-years old mother were found a few hours later in their apartment.

The police said that the gunmen returned home after the attack, killed his mother, and then committed suicide.

The 43-years old gunman, identified by the authorities as Tobias R. (German law prohibits the media from mentioning suspects’ last name until their identity has been ascertained) opened fire at the first shisha bar in Hanau’s downtown, killing three customers, before driving to the neighborhood of Kesselstadt and shooting at customers at a second shisha bar, where he killed five people.

German investigators said that information found on the web and in the killer’s apartment confirms that he was driven “xenophobic motives.”

The police found a letter in the suspect’s home in which the gunman took responsibility for the attack. The gunman also posted messages on his Facebook page (in German), and a video on YouTube (in English), in which he rails against the “mainstream media” and repeats several conspiracy theories popular in far-right circles.

The police were able to locate the killer’s apartment after a bystander jotted down the getaway car’s license plate number.

German security services said that most of the victims had “immigrant background.”

After the information about the gunman’s far-right and anti-immigration motives was found, the federal prosecutor took over the case.

Federal prosecutors in Germany primarily handle cases of crimes against the state, including treason, espionage, and terrorism, and cases involving genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. 

DW notes that attacks by far-right terrorists in Europe differ from other types of mass shootings and attacks because the perpetrators typically have legal access to firearms.

Nils Duquet, a senior researcher at the Flemish Peace Institute, told DW that “It seems like the perpetrator had a hunting permit. What police forces have been noticing across Europe is that they fear that right-wing extremism is on the rise, and that these people can also have access to guns both legally and illegally. That raises the alarm.”