By Joern Poltz
MUNICH, July 22 – Gunmen attacked a busy shopping mall in the German city of Munich on Friday evening, spraying bullets as people fled in horror for safety from what police said was a terrorist attack.
Police said six people had been killed and the attackers were still at large. They told the public to get off the streets as the city – Germany’s third biggest – went into lockdown, with transport halted and highways sealed off.
As special forces rushed to the scene, some people remained holed up in the Olympia shopping centre.
“Many shots were fired, I can’t say how many but it’s been a lot,” said a shop worker hiding in a store room inside the mall. The woman, who asked not to be identified, said she had seen a shooting victim on the floor who appeared to be dead or dying.
A worker at a different shop, Harun Balta, said: “We are still stuck inside the mall without any information, we’re waiting for the police to rescue us.”
It was the third major act of violence against civilians in Western Europe in eight days. Previous attacks in France and Germany were claimed by the militant group Daesh.
Munich police spokeswoman said six people were killed and an undetermined number wounded. No suspects had been arrested yet, she said.
“We believe there was more than one perpetrator. The first reports came at 6 p.m. (1700 GMT), the shooting apparently began at a McDonald’s in the shopping centre. There are still people in the shopping centre. We are trying to get the people out and take care of them,” the spokeswoman said.
Bavarian broadcaster BR said six people were dead and many wounded in the shopping mall. Munich police said on Facebook that witnesses reported three different gunmen armed with rifles.
A video posted online – whose authenticity could not be confirmed – showed a man dressed in black outside a McDonalds by the roadside, drawing a handgun and shooting towards members of the public.
Police said witnesses had seen shooting both inside the mall and on nearby streets.
The shopping centre is next to the Munich Olympic stadium, where the Palestinian militant group Black September took 11 Israeli athletes hostage and eventually killed them during the 1972 Olympic Games.
Munich’s main railway station was also evacuated. BR said police had also sealed off many highways north of Munich had been shut down and people were told to leave them.
DAESH SUPPORTERS CELEBRATE
There was no immediate claim of responsibility but supporters of Daesh celebrated the rampage on social media.
“Thank God, may God bring prosperity to our Daesh men,” read one tweet.
“The Daesh is expanding in Europe,” read another.
Friday’s attack took place a week after a 17-year-old asylum-seeker wounded passengers on a German train in an axe rampage. Bavarian police shot dead the teenager after he wounded four people from Hong Kong on the train and injured a local resident while fleeing.
German Justice Minister Heiko Maas told Bild newspaper’s Friday edition before the mall attack that there was “no reason to panic but it’s clear that Germany remains a possible target”.
The incidents in Germany follow an attack in Nice, France, on Bastille Day in which a Tunisian drove a truck into crowds, killing 84. Daesh also claimed responsibility for that attack.
Friday is also the five-year anniversary of the massacre by Anders Behring Breivik in Norway. Breivik is a hero for far-right extremists in Europe and America.
The Munich assault was also reminiscent of Islamist militant attacks in a shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya, in September 2013 and in Mumbai, India, in November 2008.