German government warns of ‘elevated’ risk of far-right attacks after anti-Semitic shooting

There is an "elevated" risk of more far-right attacks in Germany after two people were killed by a gunman targeting a synagogue in the city of Halle this week, Interior Minister Horst Seehofer warned Friday.

German government warns of 'elevated' risk of far-right attacks after anti-Semitic shooting
Interior Minister Horst Seehofer on ZDF public television on October 11th. Photo: DPA

“The threat posed by right-wing anti-semitism and terrorism is elevated in Germany,” Seehofer said on ZDF public television.

This means such an attack could happen “at any moment,” he added.

Seehofer said there are an estimated 24,000 far right extremists in Germany. He added that half of them are considered potentially violent with “a very high affinity for firearms.”

Seehofer's warning came two days after Stephan Balliet, a 27-year-old loner, was arrested for killing two people after trying to gain entry to a synagogue in the eastern town of Halle where dozens of worshippers were marking Yom Kippur.

Though he failed to batter his way into the building, the assailant, armed with four apparently home-made rifles and grenades, killed a female passer-by and then shot dead a man who tried to take refuge in a kebab restaurant.

Police eventually captured Balliet — who had four kilos (nine pounds) of explosives in his car — after a gun battle that left him wounded.

Earlier Friday, a spokesman for the federal prosecutor's office in Karlsruhe said Balliet had confessed to the assault and confirmed ”far-right and anti-Semitic motives.”

Given the range of weapons he had on his person, the death toll could have been far higher had Balliet managed to force his way inside the synagogue.

He filmed and live-streamed the 35-minute assault as he raved at Jews and denied the Holocaust. He also published an online manifesto expressing anti-Semitic sentiments.

“This manifesto appeared on the internet the day after his act,” said Seehofer, who added that synagogues and other Jewish venues would in future be better protected.

The minister announced the creation of new security service posts to that end and added that the government would swiftly enact a ban on six small far right groups.

“We are extremely alert on this matter,” he insisted.


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German man jailed for killing petrol station worker in mask row

A 50-year-old German man was jailed for life Tuesday for shooting dead a petrol station cashier because he was angry about being told to wear a mask while buying beer.

German man jailed for killing petrol station worker in mask row

The September 2021 murder in the western town of Idar-Oberstein shocked Germany, which saw a vocal anti-mask and anti-vaccine movement emerge in response to the government’s coronavirus restrictions.

The row started when 20-year-old student worker Alex W. asked the man to put on a mask inside the shop, as required in all German stores at the time.

After a brief argument, the man left.

The perpetrator – identified only as Mario N. – returned about an hour and a half later, this time wearing a mask. But as he bought his six-pack of beer to the till, he took off his mask and another argument ensued.

He then pulled out a revolver and shot the cashier in the head point-blank.

On Tuesday, the district court in Bad-Kreuznach convicted Mario N. of murder and unlawful possession of a firearm, and handed him a life sentence.

READ ALSO: Shock in Germany after cashier shot dead in Covid mask row

Under German law, people given a life sentence can usually seek parole after 15 years. His defence team had sought a sentence of manslaughter, rather than murder.

At the start of the trial, prosecutor Nicole Frohn told how Mario N. had felt increasingly angry about the measures imposed to curb the pandemic, seeing them as an infringement on his rights.

“Since he knew he couldn’t reach the politicians responsible, he decided to kill him (Alex W.),” she said.

Mario N. turned himself in to police the day after the shooting.

German has relaxed most of its coronavirus rules, although masks are still required in some settings, such as public transport.