At least two people have been killed after gunmen targeted a synagogue in Germany on Yom Kippur – the holiest day in Judaism.
One woman died alongside another person after at least two attackers wearing a military-style uniforms opened fire in the city of Halle, eastern Germany, on Wednesday morning. Several people were also injured.
Jewish community leaders said the men had tried to get inside the Anschlag vor Synagogue, where around 80 people were praying, but were stopped by ‘security measures’ before attacking people outside.
The men used a submachine gun during their attack and threw a grenade into the Jewish cemetery before fleeing, Bild reported.
Police have arrested one suspect, and told residents to ‘stay alert’ while a manhunt continues. Gunshots were later reported in Landsberg, 10 miles from Halle, though it was not immediately clear if the two were linked.
Images and video have emerged showing one of the gunmen outside a kebab shop close to the synagogue, pacing the streets while wearing tactical gear before firing several rounds from what appears to be a shotgun.
At least two people, including one woman, have been killed in a gun and grenade attack on a synagogue in Halle, central Germany. This is believed to be the gunman, pictured outside a kebab shop close to the synagogue
A body lies in the street outside the synagogue. Police say two people, including one woman, were killed in the attack
Armed police swarmed to the scene after the attackers opened fire with a submachine gun before throwing a grenade into a Jewish cemetery, according to local media
An armed officer runs to his vehicle in Halle. Police say they have arrested one suspect and are looking for another
Policemen climb over a wall close to the site of a shooting in Halle an der Saale, eastern Germany
Police officers walk on a road in Halle, Germany, as they secure the area following an attack outside a synagogue
Police officers with an amoured vehicle block a road in Halle, Germany, amid reports that some of the gunmen fled in a car
Footage shows the man climbing out of a car before sheltering behind the door as he fires up the street.
Each shot ejects a plume of grey smoke as the gunman stops to reload before firing again. Spent casings can be seen dropping to the ground behind him.
Max Privorotzki, who heads the Jewish community in Halle, said the gunmen had attempted to enter the synagogue, but that security measures were able to ‘withstand the attack’.
He added that between 70 and 80 people were in the synagogue at the time of the attack.
It is thought the attackers tried to flee in a taxi but were confronted by the driver and his wife, who were shot and have since been taken to hospital.
The attackers are then thought to have tried to flee on foot before one of them was arrested.
Meanwhile in Landsberg, the mayor said that gunmen who attacked that town had hijacked a car.
There was also a large police presence reported in Wiesderdorf, a short distance from Landsberg.
Konrad Rösler, a 28-year-old railway worker interviewed on German TV, said that he had been in a kebab shop when he saw a man with a helmet and military jacket launch the attack.
Rösler said the attacker threw a grenade at the shop, which bounced off the door frame, before he fired shots into the shop. He said he locked himself in the toilet and heard several more loud bangs before police arrived.
Speaking to NTV, a police spokesman said the motive of the suspect or suspects was not clear.
‘We don’t have any indication about the motive of this act.’
Officers also reported that shots were fired in Landsberg, about 10 miles from Halle. It wasn’t clear whether that incident was related to the earlier shooting.
Police guard a crime scene near a Synagogue after a shooting in Halle, Germany
A kebab shop which was said to have been targeted by one of the gunmen, as a witness said shots were fired inside
Armed officers help a woman to cross the street, stepping around shell casings which have been circled with spray paint on the floor
Police block the area around the site of a shooting in Halle an der Saale, eastern Germany
Police say they have arrested one person in connection with the attack, but told resident to shelter in place while the manhunt continues (pictured, an ambulance at the scene
Police secure the area after a shooting in the eastern German city of Halle
The attack happened in Halle on Yom Kippur, the holiest day in Judaism, which traditionally involves an intensive 25-hour period of fasting and prayer
The railway station in Halle, a city of 240,000, was closed down as a precaution amid the police operation.
The shooting triggered a huge influx of police to the city, among them units of the SEK, the elite of the German anti terrorism police.
Yom Kippur – Judaism’s holiest day
Yom Kippur, or the Day of Atonement, is the holiest day in Judaism which is marked with an intensive 25-hour period of fasting and prayer.
The holiday began Tuesday night and was due to end late Wednesday. The day typically involves five prayer sessions, with followers encouraged to repent for sins.
It is celebrated throughout the Jewish world, even by typically secular members of the faith.
Wednesday’s shootings came three months after the shocking assassination-style murder of local pro-migrant politician Walter Luebcke in the western city of Kassel, allegedly by a known neo-Nazi.
Luebcke’s killing has deeply shaken Germany, raising questions about whether it has failed to take seriously a rising threat from right-wing extremists.
Investigators have been probing the extent of suspect Stephan Ernst’s neo-Nazi ties and whether he had links to the far-right militant cell National Socialist Underground (NSU).
Interior Minister Horst Seehofer last month warned of the rising danger of the militant far right, calling it ‘as big a threat as radical Islamism’.
Seehofer said that police had uncovered 1,091 weapons including firearms and explosives during probes of crimes linked to the far right last year, far more than in 2017 when 676 were found.
At the same time, Germany has also been on high alert following several jihadist attacks in recent years claimed by the Islamic State group.