BERLIN – German federal prosecutors have taken over the investigation into Wednesday’s fatal shooting of two people by a neo-Nazi who was frustrated in his attempt to enter a synagogue in the eastern city of Halle packed with worshippers on the occasion of Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar.
The suspect, identified by newsweekly Der Spiegel as Stephan B., 27, was clad in military-style clothing and a helmet equipped with a camera.
The synagogue had stepped up security for Yom Kippur and the assailant was unable get in, though he deposited a home-made bomb at the adjacent Jewish cemetery.
Der Spiegel reported that the suspect’s helmet camera captured the images as he fatally shot a woman near the cemetery and gunned down a man at a kebab stand roughly 600m (2,000ft) from the synagogue.
The images were accompanied by audio of the attacker’s denunciations of Jews and “sh---y foreigners” as the “root of all the problems,” the magazine said.
“Our solidarity to all Jews on the holy day of Yom Kippur. Our thanks to the security forces who are still on the case,” German government spokesman Steffen Seibert said on Twitter.
Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed her “deep condolences to the family of the victims,” he wrote.
It remained unclear whether Stephan B. had any accomplices.
Though both police and media outlets said that several other people fled the scene after the shots were fired, Mdr television aired a video from a witness’ cell-phone appearing to show that Stephan B. acted alone.
The attack was followed about an hour later by a shooting incident in Landsberg, 15km (9mi) from Halle, that reporters suggested may have been connected to the initial assault.
Authorities were in no doubt that the motivation behind the violence in Halle was anti-Semitism.
“According to the current information we have, we must assume that this is at least an anti-Semitic attack,” Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said.
Halle is located in the state of Saxony-Anhalt, which was part of East Germany from 1949-1990 and is now home to some small neo-Nazi groups that have attracted the attention of counter-terrorism officials.
The governments in both Saxony-Anhalt and neighboring Lower Saxony increased the police presence at synagogues in the wake of the Halle attack.