At Least 2 Killed Near a Synagogue in Germany

CBS News
October 09, 2019 - 8:32 am

CBS

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An attack near a synagogue in the German town of Halle on Wednesday left at least two people dead. "According to initial findings, two people were killed in Halle," the local police said in a tweet. "There were several shots."

Witnesses told German media they saw a man open fire wearing camouflage before fleeing in a car. Halle's police force later sent a tweet saying they had detained one person in connection to the attack. They did not say whether they were seeking any additional suspects.

Video posted to social media showed a man wearing tactical gear including body armor and a helmet firing several rounds. It wasn't clear what weapon was used in the attack but the gunman was seen reloading after each shot, and large shells fell to the ground after each round.

Police did not confirm that the attack targeted worshipers, but Jews around the world were marking Yom Kippur on Wednesday, the holiest day on the Jewish calendar, and part of the taped-off crime scene was immediately outside the walls of a Jewish cemetery adjacent to the Halle synagogue.

A witness told local television he first heard "a huge bang" before he saw someone "try to enter the Jewish cemetery."

"He shot several times with a shotgun at the cemetery, at the door. Then a woman came, who was shot, she just happened to come from the tram stop," the witness said. 

There were unconfirmed reports from witnesses that a Turkish kebab restaurant near the synagogue was also shot at during the attack. 

German federal prosecutors, who always handle cases involving suspected terrorism or national security, took over the investigation of shooting in Halle, according to German news agency dpa. 

CBS News correspondent Mark Phillips said German authorities increased security measures around synagogues and Jewish cemeteries across the country after the shooting.

"Together with you, I would like to express my sympathies to the German police forces, the German people and the German Jewish community," President of the European parliament David Sassoli told the gathered legislators in Brussels on Wednesday. "Our thoughts are with the families and friends of the victims and the citizens of Germany."  

As CBS News correspondent Roxana Saberi reported last year, a marked rise of extreme nationalist groups in Germany has also brought a return of anti-Semitic acts. German police received more than 400 reports of anti-Semitic attacks in the first half of 2018 — 10 percent more than the same period the previous year.