A heavily armed gunman with a live streaming head camera tried to storm a synagogue in eastern Germany on Wednesday as congregants observed the holiest day in Judaism. Foiled by a locked door, he killed two people outside and wounded two others in an anti-Semitic spree that smacked of far-right terrorism.
Hours later the police announced the arrest of a suspect in the assault in the city of Halle, one of the most brazen in a string of recent attacks aimed at Jews in Germany. Police officials declined to confirm if the suspect was the gunman or whether he had any accomplices.
The methodology of the assailant bore a striking resemblance to the rampage by a far-right extremist against two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, more than six months ago, in which he broadcast his killings live on social media. Fifty-one people died in that attack.
Like the Christchurch killer, the Halle assailant recorded himself, in a 35-minute video of shooting, mayhem and hateful language.
In accented English, he identified himself as Anon, denied the Holocaust, denounced feminists and immigrants, then declared: “The root of all these problems is the Jew.”
He then drove to Halle’s Humboldt Street synagogue, showing the arsenal of weapons in his car. While trying unsuccessfully to enter the synagogue, he fired at a woman passing by who had spoken to him, hitting her in the back. She crumpled and he shot her several more times, the video showed.
After other failed attempts to enter the synagogue, including shooting at the door, he drove to a kebab shop and started shooting. Two men cowered behind a beverage machine, and he fired at them, the footage showed. He then shot at a pedestrian, drove his car closer to the kebab shop, shot at some other pedestrians, re-entered and shot the body of one victim several times. He returned to his car, shot over the roof, and drove off.
The assailant uploaded his video to Twitch, a live-streaming platform owned by Amazon that has struggled with moderating the real-time content that floods in from millions of active broadcasters. Alerted to the broadcast, Twitch scrambled to remove it and issue an apology, but not before right-wing sites had archived it.
Megan Squire, a computer science professor at Elon University who studies online extremism, wrote in a post on Twitter that footage of the attack flowed through the messaging platform Telegram, reaching more than 15,000 accounts.