9 die in Munich attack

MUNICH – An 18-year-old German-Iranian man opened fire in a crowded Munich shopping mall and a nearby McDonald’s Friday night, killing nine people and wounding 16 others before killing himself, the chief of police in the Bavarian capital said.

Munich police chief Hubertus Andrae told a news conference early today that the suspect was a dual citizen from Munich and his motive still was “fully unclear.”

He said it was too early to label the attack an act of terrorism; earlier police said they had no indication of Islamic extremism.

“The question of terrorism or a rampage is tied to motive, and we don’t know the motive,” Andrae said.

Police gave a “cautious all clear” in the pre-dawn hours today, more than seven hours after the attack began and brought much of the city to a standstill as all public transit systems were shut down amid a massive manhunt. They said a body found near the scene was that of the shooter and he appeared to have acted alone and killed himself as he fled.

Andrae said the suspect’s body was found about 2 1/2 hours after the attack and was determined to be the shooter based on witness statements and closed circuit television footage of the attack. The shooter, whose name wasn’t released, was not previously known to police and there was no evidence of any links to terrorist organizations, Andrae said.

“We can’t question the suspect so this is all a little more difficult,” he said.

A cellphone video posted online showed the suspect dressed in black standing on a rooftop parking area of the mall yelling back and forth with the person filming, saying at one point “I’m German,” and eventually firing shots. Andrae said police believe the video is genuine.

Witnesses had reported seeing three men with firearms near the Olympia Einkaufszentrum mall, but Andrae said two other people who fled the area were investigated but had “nothing to do with the incident.”

The police chief said the nine fatalities included young people and children were among the 16 wounded, three of whom were in critical condition.

After gunfire broke out at the mall, one of Munich’s largest, the city sent a smartphone alert declaring an “emergency situation” and telling people to stay indoors, while all rail, subway and trolley service was halted in the city.

It was the third major act of violence against civilians in Western Europe in eight days. The previous attacks, in the French resort city of Nice and on a train in Bavaria near the city of Wuerzburg, were claimed by the Islamic State group.

The attack started shortly before 6 p.m. local time at a McDonald’s across the street from the mall, which was filled with people doing their weekend shopping. As dozens of shots rang out, terrified shoppers ran from the scene, some carrying babies and pushing strollers.

Video obtained by The Associated Press from German news agency NonstopNews showed two bodies with sheets draped over them not far from the fast food restaurant. Another video posted online showed a gunman emerging from the McDonald’s, raising what appeared to be a pistol with both hands and aiming at people on the sidewalk, firing as they fled in terror.

Witness Luan Zequiri said he was in the mall when the shooting began and “there was a really loud scream,” he told German broadcaster n-tv.

He said he saw only one attacker, who yelled an anti-foreigner slur and was wearing jack boots and a backpack.

“I looked in his direction and he shot two people on the stairs,” Zequiri said. He said he hid in a shop, then ran outside when the coast was clear and saw bodies of the dead and wounded on the ground.

Germany’s Interior Ministry said Munich police had set up a hotline for concerned citizens. Residents of Munich opened their doors to people seeking shelter using the Twitter hashtag #opendoor.

Germany’s interior minister cut short his holiday in the United States to go back to Berlin late Friday to meet with security officials.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel was being regularly briefed on the attack, said her chief of staff, Peter Altmaier.

“All that we know and can say right now is that it was a cruel and inhumane attack,” he said on German public channel ARD. “We can’t rule out that there are terrorist links. We can’t confirm them, but we are investigating along those lines too.”

Altmaier said Friday was the fifth anniversary of the massacre in Oslo, Norway, by a far-right extremist who killed 77 people, 69 of them at a youth summer camp.