After Hanau: How can Germany deal with extreme right-wing terror?
It started out like any other Wednesday night as groups of friends gathered to socialize. But it ended in tragedy in Hanau when a gunman with suspected far-right beliefs opened fire on two shisha bars in the German city near Frankfurt.
Nine people, all believed to be of foreign descent, were killed in the shootings which began at 10pm.
Turkish state news agency Anadolu reported that five Turkish nationals were among those killed in the shootings. Some of the other victims are reportedly of Kurdish origin.
According to German daily Bild one of the victims was a 35-year-old mother-of-two.
The body of the suspected gunman was later found by police at his home along with the body of his 72-year-old mother. Both were killed by shot wounds in what appeared to be a murder-suicide.
Germany anti-terror prosecutors said they suspected “a xenophobic motive” behind the shootings, the latest deadly attack blamed on the far-right in Germany.
Chancellor Angela Merkel pledged to fight back against “all those who try to divide Germany”.
Speaking to reporters, Merkel brought up the murders carried out by the neo-Nazi “NSU” cell between 2000-07 as well as last June’s killing of pro-migrant politician Walter Lübcke, and the deadly anti-Semitic attack in Halle in October as examples of the threat posed by the far right.
Political scientist Florian Hartleb and far-right expert told The Local that these recent attacks have shaken up the country and fuelled fear as authorities try to figure out how to deal with extreme terror.
“Germany is very scared after the killing of Lübcke, plus the actions in Halle in October. Now this is the third action and 10 people have died,” said Hartleb who is the author of Lone Wolves, The New Terrorism of Right Wing Single Actors.
“This is actually quite scary for the German public. The perpetrators have been so-called lone wolves and right-wing extremists.
“In autumn the Interior Ministry talked about how it wanted to deal with right-wing extremists. I imagine now there will be another very big debate about this, about what police and authorities can do.”
So what can we learn from the latest horror and can future attacks be stopped?
At this point we don’t have all the facts about the case but here’s what we know so far.
The suspected attacker is a German man identified as 43-year-old Tobias R.
He left behind a “manifesto” and video material online that suggested a terror attack motivated by “a hostile attitude to foreigners”, Peter Beuth, the interior minister of the state of Hesse, said.
In the rambling 24-page document the alleged gunman wrote that people from over two dozen countries should be “destroyed”.
He also said he had never been with a woman, which he blamed on being “watched” by secret services, although he didn’t specify who they were.
Hartleb, who examined the document and the video, said it was clear the suspect was “psychologically damaged” and that he held “extreme right-wing views”.
“I think this is a man who was socially isolated, was going through a life crisis and was extremely active online, and searching for conspiracy theories,” said Hartleb.
Hartleb said the manifesto was full of “narcissism”. “He’s referring to his own website, he’s speaking perfect English: he wanted to get famous because of his actions,” he said.
“The manifesto is full of conspiracy theories. The main conspiracy theory is that there’s a dark power behind everything. He’s saying we’re observed as citizens and he is controlled and dominated by a secret organization and secret power. This is his main message.
“What I observed was that he referred to two different audiences. In the German manifesto he’s writing to the German people and in the English manifesto he’s addressing American citizens.”
Hartleb says the suspect fits the description of a “lone wolf”.
“What fits to this so-called lone wolf terrorist description is the mixture of his personal frustration and the political motives,” he said.