German Chancellor Angela Merkel has condemned the racially-motivated shootings in Germany where at least nine people with immigrant backgrounds were killed.
“Racism is a poison, and hatred is a poison. This poison exists in our society,” Merkel said in a televised statement on Thursday.
Tobias Rathjen, 43, is suspected of gunning down nine people, including at least five Turkish nationals with Kurdish background in two shisha bars in Germany’s western town of Hanau. He then turned the gun on himself and his elderly mother in his apartment early on Thursday.
The attacker was acting with a “deeply racist mindset,” Germany’s Federal Prosecutor Peter Frank said.
The identities of the victims have not yet been officially disclosed by the German authorities who said they were not seeking any other suspects.
The shootings by the suspect took place in two different cafes, one in the city center of Hanau and the other in the Kesselstadt neighborhood.
Before the attack, the gunman reportedly released a 24-page manifesto on his website justifying his beliefs against “nonwhites.” The manifesto was later removed.
The Turkish foreign ministry said in a statement on Thursday that the German state was being “insensitive” against “racism and xenophobia” in the country.
“It is not possible to consider these incidents as individual attacks anymore. The insensitivity shown towards the fight against increasing xenophobia in Europe leads to new attacks every day. It is time to put an end to these attacks,” the ministry charged in the statement.
Lars Klingbeil from the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD), a junior coalition partner with Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU), accused Alternative for Germany (AfD), Germany’s nationalist party of providing ideological fodder to those like Rathjen.
“One person carried out the shooting in Hanau, that’s what it looks like, but there were many that supplied him with ammunition, and AfD definitely belongs amongst them,” Klingbeil told German public broadcaster ARD on Friday.
Since it was formed in 2013 as an anti-Euro party, the AfD has rapidly grown into the biggest opposition party in the German national parliament with 89 seats, after it shifted its focus to immigration and Islam.
The party, however, rejects all responsibility for far-right attacks in the country, including an anti-Semitic attack on a synagogue and killing of a pro-migrant politician last year.
Similarly, an 18-year-old youth with radical right-wing and racist views gunned down nine people at a shopping mall in Munich in 2016 before killing himself.
Vigils for the nine victims have been staged around Germany, with tens of thousands of people gathering in silence and carrying candles and white roses.
Attending one of the vigils, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said his country “will not be intimidated.”
On Thursday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his country was carefully monitoring the situation, calling on the German authorities to “do whatever is necessary” to throw light on all aspects of the attack.
“We cannot spend a peaceful evening out – we are scared for our lives. What is happening in Germany? Where is the protection?” Ali Can, a German-Turkish anti-racism activist, said on his Twitter account.