HALLE, Germany - A shooting near a synagogue in Germany on Wednesday that left two people dead is being regarded as a hate crime, according to a top security official, who said prosecutors believe the attack might've been spurred by anti-Semitism and far-right motives.
A "heavily armed perpetrator" tried to force his way into a synagogue in the city of Halle Wednesday afternoon, German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said in a statement. Wednesday is Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish calendar, in which worshippers atone for their sins.
Several shots were fired outside the synagogue and at a nearby kebab shop, leaving two people dead. German news magazine Der Spiegel reported a suspect, who has been arrested, is a 27-year-old German man from the state of Saxony-Anhalt, where Halle is located.
Policemen secure the area around the site of a shooting in Halle an der Saale, eastern Germany, on October 9, 2019. (Photo by SEBASTIAN WILLNOW/dpa/AFP via Getty Images)
It was not immediately clear whether more suspects remain at large.
Federal prosecutors – who handle cases involving suspected terrorism or national security – were quick to take over the investigation.
A spokesperson for German Chancellor Angela Merkel said government officials had no information on the attack but described the situation as "terrible news from Halle."
The head of Halle's Jewish community, Max Privorotzki, told Der Spiegel there were 70 or 80 people inside the synagogue and security outside when the shooting occurred. Synagogues are often protected by police in Germany, and police in two other eastern cities – Dresden and Leipzig – stepped up security at synagogues there after the shooting in Halle.
Authorities said shots were also fired Wednesday in Landsberg, roughly 15 miles away from Halle. It was not immediately clear whether the two shootings were connected.