A shooting rampage at a busy shopping centre in Munich, which killed at least nine people, was carried out by a sole attacker, who then shot himself dead, German police said early on Saturday.
The third attack on civilians in Europe in just over a week sent panicked shoppers fleeing the mall in Germany’s third largest city as elite police launched a massive operation to track down what had initially been thought to be up to three assailants.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel is expected to convene her security council on Saturday. The shooting came just days after an axe rampage on a train in the same German state of Bavaria and just over a week after a truck attack in the French Riviera city of Nice that killed 84 people.
“The perpetrator was an 18-year-old German-Iranian from Munich,” police chief Hubertus Andrae told reporters, adding that there was no sign of any additional shooters involved in the incident.
The suspect had dual citizenship and “no criminal record”, Andrae said.
“The motive or explanation for this crime is completely unclear.”
Two men initially suspected as accomplices in the shooting who had left the scene in a car were later interviewed and cleared, police said.
Al Jazeera’s David Chater, reporting from outside the shopping centre in Munich, said that the attack appeared to be the work of one lone gunman.
“He was heard shouting at the top of the mall to a group of spectators … that he was German,” Chater said, referencing a widely-circulated video posted on social media.
“Police are looking at two aspects of his background: one that he might had been anti-immigrant, and the other that he might had been radicalised in some way.”
At least 21 people, including children, were wounded in the attack, 16 of whom were still being treated in hospital.
State of emergency
The shooter’s body was found about 1km away from the shopping centre. A red rucksack found near the body was being examined for explosives, police said.
The shooting triggered a series of evacuations of public places in the southern city, as well as suspension of public transportation and deployment of special forces.
Munich authorities said early on Saturday that people could now leave their homes after an earlier warning to keep off the streets.
They also said public transportation in the city was up and running again.
The shooting started shortly before 16:00 GMT, with authorities initially saying witnesses had reported seeing three gunmen.
A video posted on social media appeared to show a man dressed in black walking away from a McDonald’s fast food restaurant while firing repeatedly on people as they fled.
A wide area around the busy shopping centre was closed off as special forces rushed to the scene.
“The police was just flying by – another car about every 15 or 30 seconds,” Ryan Sink, who was passing by the shopping centre, told Al Jazeera.
“No one really knew what was going on,” Sink added.
“We were all pulling over frantically and watching them set up a perimeter … Police were telling people passing by to get out of the way and away from the buildings.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel was being regularly briefed during the attack, Peter Altmaier, her chief of staff, said on Friday.
In response to the attack, Facebook activated its safety feature, allowing Munich residents and visitors to let their friends know they were unharmed.[Source: AL Jazeera]