HALLE, Germany -- A heavily armed assailant ranting about Jewish people tried to force his way into a synagogue in Germany on Yom Kippur, Judaism's holiest day, then fatally shot two people outside the building in an attack Wednesday that was livestreamed on a popular gaming site.
The attacker shot at the door of the synagogue in the city of Halle but did not get in as 70 to 80 people inside were observing the holy day, a Jewish leader said.
"The root of all problems are the Jews!" the attacker shouted in English before the shooting, according to the head of the SITE Intelligence Group, who wrote on Twitter that 35 minutes of footage of the attacks were posted online. Rita Katz, co-founder of the group, said it showed the attacker shooting a woman in the street after failing to enter the synagogue, then entering a business and killing another person before fleeing.
Germany's top security official, Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, said authorities must assume that it was an anti-Semitic attack, and said prosecutors believe there may be a right-wing extremist motive to it. He said several people were injured.
The filming of Wednesday's attack echoed another shooting halfway around the world when a man in March killed 51 people at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand and livestreamed much of the attack on Facebook. That shooting drew strong criticism of social media giants for not immediately finding and blocking such a violent video.
Video of Wednesday's attack was livestreamed on the gaming site Twitch, which said it had "worked with urgency" to remove it. Twitch said it would permanently suspend any account found to be posting or reposting "content of this abhorrent act."
The attack was the third to target a synagogue in a year, after attacks in the United States on synagogues in Pittsburgh and Poway, Calif.
Police said in a tweet Wednesday afternoon that "the suspected perpetrators" had fled in a car after the attack and quickly reported that one person had been arrested. Officers spread out in force across Halle, a city of 240,000, urging residents to stay home.
Several hours later, police said there was no longer an "acute" danger to the city. They didn't give details about the person who had been arrested or specify why their assessment had changed, but the news agency Deutsche Presse-Agentur and the Bild newspaper cited unidentified security sources as saying the evidence points to a lone assailant.
Newsmagazine Der Spiegel, which didn't cite its sources, said the suspect is a 27-year-old man from Saxony-Anhalt state, where Halle is located.
The head of Halle's Jewish community, Max Privorozki, told Der Spiegel that a surveillance camera at the entrance of the synagogue showed a person trying to break into the building while there were 70 or 80 people inside.
"The assailant shot several times at the door and also threw several Molotov cocktails, firecrackers or grenades to force his way in," he said. "But the door remained closed -- God protected us. The whole thing lasted perhaps five to 10 minutes."Gallery: Police officers arrive after deadly shooting in Germany
Deutsche Presse-Agentur quoted unidentified security sources as saying that an assailant laid homemade explosives outside the synagogue.
Security was stepped up at synagogues in other cities after the shooting in Halle.
German officials condemned the attack.
"Shots being fired at a synagogue on Yom Kippur, the festival of reconciliation, hits us in the heart," German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said on Twitter. "We must all act against anti-Semitism in our country."
Vice Chancellor Olaf Scholz said that "all our country's citizens of Jewish faith can be sure that we are with them with our whole heart and we will give them all the security that is possible."
The U.S. Embassy in Berlin said "today's attack is an attack on all of us, and the perpetrators must be held accountable."
The European Parliament held a moment of silence at the start of its session Wednesday to mark the unfolding situation in Halle.
Manfred Weber, the German leader of the center-right European People's Party in the parliament, declared that "anti-Semites and anybody who wants to question freedom of belief are not just our opponents, they are our enemies."
Information for this article was contributed by Raf Casert of The Associated Press.
A Section on 10/10/2019
Print Headline: Gunman targets German synagogue