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CRIME

German suspect admits anti-Semitic attack, far-right motive

The German suspect in a deadly attack targeting a synagogue has admitted to the shooting rampage and confessed that it was motivated by anti-Semitism and right-wing extremism, federal prosecutors said Friday.

German suspect admits anti-Semitic attack, far-right motive
People gather outside the sysnagogue in Halle on Friday. Photo: DPA

Stephan Balliet, 27, made a “very comprehensive” confession during an interrogation lasting several hours, said a spokesman for the federal prosecutor's office in Karlsruhe.

“He gave an extensive confession. He confirmed far-right and anti-Semitic motives” for the attack, the spokesman said.

Balliet is accused of shooting dead two people in the eastern German city of Halle on Wednesday, after he tried and failed to storm a synagogue.

The man, who was described by neighbours and his father as a loner who spent much of his time at a computer, had filmed and live-streamed the assault.

The victims, a German man and woman, appeared to be chosen at random when the assailant failed to gain access to the synagogue he had besieged with gunfire and homemade explosives, as the frightened congregation barricaded itself inside.

Police eventually captured Balliet after a gun battle that left him wounded.

Balliet's lawyer Hans-Dieter Weber told public broadcaster Südwestrundfunk that his client stood by his actions.

“It would be nonsensical to deny it, and he didn't do that,” said Weber.

“In his view of the world, he blames others for his own misery and that's what ultimately triggered his action.”

Balliet's confession came as Jews prepared to mark the Sabbath from sundown, with solidarity action also planned across the country, including at the synagogue targeted in Halle.

Hours ahead of the Sabbath, Max Privorozki, who heads the Jewish community in Halle, said Jews would not allow themselves to be intimidated by the assault.

Around 50 people were in the synagogue to mark the holy Jewish day of Yom Kippur, when the assailant had tried to shoot his way into the Jewish temple.

Armed with weapons he is believed to have built himself and along with four kilos of explosives in his car, Balliet began his rampage at noon.

Throughout a video the shooter made of his actions using a helmet-mounted smartphone, his rage bubbles to the surface, when he calls himself a “fucking idiot”, a “failure” and a “loser”.

Investigators searching Balliet's father's apartment found a 3-D printer, which could have been used to manufacture firearms, according to Spiegel magazine.

Police have also confiscated a hard-drive from his bedroom in the apartment he shared with his divorced mother.

Federal prosecutor Peter Frank called the act “terror” and said it had been planned to be a “massacre”.

Noting that it was only thanks to the Halle synagogue's own security measures that the assailant had been kept from penetrating the temple, Jewish leaders have demanded authorities to do more to protect the community.

On Thursday, Chancellor Angela Merkel vowed that there would be “zero tolerance” for hate, while Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said protection will be stepped up immediately for all Jewish sites and institutions in Germany.

Germany has taken pride in the rebirth of Jewish life since the Nazis' World War II slaughter of six million Jews across Europe.

The community has grown to about 225,000 thanks in large part to an influx from the ex-Soviet Union after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

READ ALSO: 'The boy was only ever online': Who was the shooter in Halle attack?

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CRIME

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.

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