Germany arrests two suspects in double police shooting

German police on Monday arrested two suspects in a major manhunt triggered by the fatal shooting of two police officers during a routine traffic stop.

Police officers stand at a cordon on Kreisstraße 22 near the scene where two police officers were shot dead.
Police officers stand at a cordon on Kreisstraße 22, about a kilometre from the scene where two police officers were shot dead. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Sebastian Gollnow

A 38-year-old suspect was taken into custody in the western state of Saarland shortly after police issued a wanted notice and shared his photo with the media.

He was arrested by special forces in the town of Sulzbach, Saarland police said in a statement.

A 32-year-old man was separately detained “without resisting arrest” during police searches of several premises, they added.

The shooting happened at around 4.20am on Monday in Rhineland-Palatinate. 

The victims – a 24-year-old woman and 29-year-old man – were carrying out checks on traffic in the district of Kusel at the time, police in nearby Kaiserslautern said.

The shooting, for which the motive remains unclear, sent shockwaves through Germany.

Interior Minister Nancy Faeser likened the crime to an “execution” and said it showed “that police officers risk their lives every day for our security”.

Police comb an area following the shooting of two police officers in western Germany.

Police at the scene following the shooting of two police officers in western Germany. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Thomas Frey

Westpfalz police initially said they were hunting for more than one fugitive, at least one of whom was armed.

German police closed off roads and deployed helicopters and sniffer dogs in the hunt for the perpetrator.

Police had also urged residents in the Kusel district not to pick up hitchhikers.

Investigators closed off Kreisstrasse 22 is near Mayweilerhof and Ulmet. 

Still in training

According to the investigators, the two officers had been on a routine patrol. They were travelling in a civilian patrol car, but were wearing uniforms.

The early morning shooting occurred on a country road surrounded by forest and fields.

The two officers were able to radio their colleagues for assistance at the scene. Backup police then arrived at the scene and found one officer dead and the other fatally injured.

The young woman who was gunned down was still in police training, according to Rhineland-Palatinate Interior Minister Roger Lewentz.

Germany’s Bild newspaper quoted unnamed sources as saying the two officers had pulled over a “suspicious vehicle” and radioed in to say they had found dead game in the trunk, before shots were fired.

Police said the motive for the shooting remained unknown.

An armed police officer at a cordon near the scene where two police officers were killed.

An armed police officer at a cordon near the scene where two police officers were killed. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Sebastian Gollnow

‘Shocked and saddened’

People in Germany have been left stunned by the news. 

Federal Interior Minister Nancy Faeser said: “My thoughts are with the families, friends and colleagues of the victims. We will do everything possible to apprehend the perpetrators.”

Marco Buschmann, Germany’s Justice Minister, said: “This terrible act leaves you stunned.” 

Germany’s GdP police union expressed its “deep shock and sadness” over the shooting.

“Our thoughts are with the relatives and loved ones of the colleagues who died as a result of an act of violence in the line of duty,” GdP deputy chief Joerg Radek said.

The last time a police officer was killed on duty in Rhineland-Palatinate state was in 2010, when a special task force officer was shot dead by a Hells Angel biker during a raid.

Rhineland-Palatinate state premier Malu Dreyer and interior minister Lewentz also said they were deeply saddened.

“Our thoughts are with the relatives,” they said in a statement. “The crime is horrific. We are deeply shocked that two young people have lost their lives in the line of duty.”

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German police foil teenage school ‘Nazi attack’

German investigators said Thursday they foiled a school bomb attack, as they arrested a 16-year-old who is suspected to have been planning a "Nazi terror attack".

German police foil teenage school 'Nazi attack'

“The police prevented a nightmare,” said Herbert Reul, interior minister of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) state.

Police in the city of Essen had stormed the teen’s room overnight, taking him into custody and uncovering 16 “pipe bombs”, as well as anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim material.

Some of the pipe bombs found contained nails, but officers did not find any detonators, Reul said.

There are “indications suggesting the young man has serious psychiatric problems and suicidal thoughts,” said Reul.

Material found so far in the suspect’s room include his own writing which constituted “a call for urgent help by a desperate young man.”

The suspect was allegedly planning to target his current school or another where he studied previously.

“All democrats have a common task to fight against racism, brutalisation and hate,” said NRW’s deputy premier Joachim Stamp, as he thanked police for “preventing a suspected Nazi terror attack”.

The suspect is being questioned while investigators continue to comb his home for evidence.

Investigators believe that he was acting alone.

They had been tipped off by another teen who informed them that the young man “wanted to place bombs in his school”, located about 800 metres from his home.

The school, as well as another institution, were closed on Thursday as investigators undertook fingertip searches as the locations to ensure that no bombs had been placed on site.

‘Neo-Nazi networks’ 

Germany has been rocked by several far-right assaults in recent years, sparking accusations that the government was not doing enough to stamp out neo-Nazi violence.

In February 2020 a far-right extremist shot dead 10 people and wounded five others in the central German city of Hanau.

Large amounts of material championing conspiracy theories and far-right ideology were subsequently found in the gunman’s apartment.

And in 2019, two people were killed after a neo-Nazi tried to storm a synagogue in Halle on the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur.

Germany’s centre-left-led government under Chancellor Olaf Scholz took office in December pledging a decisive fight against far-right militants and investigators in April carried out country-wide raids against “neo-Nazi networks”, arresting four suspects.

The suspects targeted in the raids were believed to belong to the far-right martial arts group Knockout 51, the banned Combat 18 group named after theorder in the alphabet of Adolf Hitler’s initials, US-based Atomwaffen (Atomic) Division or the online propaganda group Sonderkommando 1418.

German authorities were also battling to clean extremists from within their ranks. Last year, the state of Hesse said it was dissolving Frankfurt’s elite police force after several officers were accused of participating in far-right online chats and swapping neo-Nazi symbols.