|Part of right-wing terrorism in Europe|
|Location||Hanau, Hesse, Germany|
|Coordinates||Coordinates: (first crime scene)|
|Date||19 February 2020 |
|Target||Shisha bar patrons|
|Deaths||11 (including the perpetrator)|
The Hanau shootings occurred on 19 February 2020, when eleven people were killed and five others wounded in a terrorist shooting spree by a far-right extremist targeting two shisha bars in Hanau, near Frankfurt, Hesse, Germany. After the attacks, the gunman returned to his apartment, where he killed his mother and then committed suicide. The massacre was called an act of terrorism by the German Minister of Internal Affairs. The perpetrator had attracted the attention of German authorities for years with paranoid delusions. It remains unexplained why he had nevertheless been able to legally possess weapons since 2002, why emergency hotlines were busy on the night of the crime, the emergency call center was understaffed, and the emergency exit of one of the bars were locked.
The shootings took place at around 22:00 local time (UTC+1) on 19 February 2020, in two shisha bars—one at the Midnight Bar in Hanau's central square, and the other at the Arena Bar & Café in Kesselstadt. Reports showed that both bars are mostly frequented by Turkish citizens. The attacker first started aiming at three guests, followed by the waiter who had just served them. The police initiated a large-scale investigation. It was initially reported that the suspects were at large. The gunman, later identified as Tobias Rathjen, then drove home where he shot his mother while his father was able to escape. He then shot himself. He and his mother were discovered by police at 05:15 the next day when they gained entry.
The nine people killed by the attacker during the two shootings were identified as four Germans Gökhan Gültekin (37), Ferhat Unvar (23), Mercedes Kierpacz (35), Said Nesar Hashemi (21) (two of whom had Kurdish origins, another of Sinti origins, and another with Afghan nationality), Sedat Gürbüz (29) and Fatih Saraçoğlu (34) two Turks, Hamza Kurtović (22) a Bosnian, Kaloyan Velkov (33) a Bulgarian, and Vili Viorel Păun (22) a Romanian. The owner of one of the shisha bars was among the victims. Three immediately died in the first shooting, five immediately died in the second, and a ninth victim died in hospital the next day. The attacker shot and killed his German mother before committing suicide.
The gunman was identified as 43-year-old Tobias Rathjen, a far-right extremist. He published a manifesto and videos on his personal website, showing his political beliefs and theories surrounding US President Donald Trump stealing his slogans, eugenics, and expressing frustration that he could never experience an intimate relationship with a woman due to psychological issues during his lifetime. He stated that he had been guided by voices inside his head since birth and that he was being followed by secret agents. Rathjen expressed a hatred for migrants, especially for people from the Middle East, Central Asia, Southeast Asia and North Africa. He also expressed a hatred for German citizens who allowed immigrants into their country, and considered them as "impure".
According to Germany's general prosecutor Peter Frank, Rathjen had contacted German authorities with his conspiracy theories three months before the attack: on 6 November 2019, Rathjen had written a letter to the Public Prosecutor General urging action against a "secret service" organisation, which he claimed was tapping into people's brains to control world events. He called on authorities to "approach me and communicate with me". No action was taken in response. Parts of this 19-page letter were virtually identical to his 24-page manifesto published on his website in February 2020, but it was unclear whether it included any threats against ethnic minorities.
Near the Arena Bar, text linked to the perpetrator's website was found written in graffiti on a wall before it was covered over by police.
Federal prosecutors are treating the attack as terrorism, with officials saying there is evidence the gunman was a far-right extremist, as well as signs of xenophobic motives for the killings. Peter Beuth, the Minister of the Interior in the state of Hesse, stated on 20 February that a homepage found by investigators indicated a right-wing political motive for the shootings. A letter and a video clip of a confession were reportedly discovered and are being analysed by the police.
As a result of the shootings, German Chancellor Angela Merkel cancelled a planned trip to Halle and expressed her condolences to the victims' families. The president of the European Parliament, David Sassoli, also offered condolences. Some Turkish citizens were among the victims of the shooting; the Turkish government described it as a form of racism and urged a prompt investigation. German president Frank-Walter Steinmeier, his wife Elke Büdenbender, and the Hesse minister-president Volker Bouffier attended a vigil at one of the shooting sites. Pope Francis extended his sympathy to the families who lost their loved ones during the shooting incident in Hanau, through the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin.
On 24 February, in response to the shootings, the United Kingdom proscribed Sonnenkrieg Division, the British branch of the American neo-Nazi organisation Atomwaffen Division, as a terrorist group. Another UK-based far-right organisation, System Resistance Network, was also proscribed as an alias for National Action, which had been proscribed as a terrorist organisation since 2016.
On 19 February 2021 large memorial services and rallies were held in multiple cities in Germany to commemorate the victims, warn against racism and demand further action. President Frank-Walter Steinmeier attended a ceremony in Hanau condemning hate and racism while acknowledging mistakes by authorities.
- 2004 Cologne bombing
- 2016 Munich shooting
- 2019 Halle synagogue shooting
- List of right-wing terrorist attacks
- Murder of Michèle Kiesewetter
- National Socialist Underground murders
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Instead, judging by the material he posted online, Tobias Rathjen appears to have been driven by a toxic mix of racist, conspiracist, and incel ideology, and likely suffered from serious mental health problems, experts say.
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Germany will deploy extra police to protect mosques, railway stations, airports and other sensitive sites because of a "very high" far-right threat following the Hanau killings, the interior minister says.
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A day after a gunman killed nine people with an immigrant background in Hanau, the western German city is grappling with anger, fear and mourning.
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