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Germany city Hanau reels after mass shooting

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A woman lights candles at a makeshift memorial in Hanau, near Frankfurt am Main, western Germany, on February 20, 2020, after at least nine people were killed in two shootings late on February 19, 2020. – The suspect in two shootings in Germany that killed at least nine people was found dead at home, police said on February 20, 2020. At least nine people were killed in two shootings late on February 19 in Hanau, near the German city of Frankfurt. (Photo by Odd ANDERSEN / AFP)

Residents tearfully embraced each other and laid flowers Thursday in the German city of Hanau after a gunman with suspected far-right beliefs killed nine people at a shisha bar and a cafe.

“You never think about something like this happening near to you,” 27-year-old Baran Celik told AFP outside the Midnight shisha bar, where the first of the two shootings took place.

“You see things like this on the news… and then it happens right in front of your door — it’s tragic.”

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Twenty-year-old Sabuhr Alizadeh said the attacks were “horrific”.

“Someone I know was here when the shooting started, he called me and hid under a table,” said Alizadeh, an Afghan who has lived in Hanau for nearly four years.

As prosecutors confirmed that the Hanau suspect, Tobias R., had harboured a “deeply racist attitude”, Alizadeh told AFP that the racists “should just go away”.

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“It’s deeply sad because Hanau is known for having people from different countries and religions… we will hold together in future because this is our home,” he said.

– ‘Disgrace‘ –
Just a few minutes’ walks from Hanau’s central market square, the shisha bar was the first of two locations targeted in the rampage.

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At the second, the Arena Bar & Cafe, police hurried to cover up the address of the perpetrator’s website with a blue plastic sheet after it was spray-painted on a nearby wall.

It was on this website that shooter Tobias R. published a rambling, 24-page ‘manifesto’ detailing racist and paranoid conspiracy theories.

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For Hanau resident Inge Bank, it was a “disgrace that something like this can still happen today”.

The 82-year-old Hanau resident said she had lived through World War II and seen her mother imprisoned in a concentration camp.

Near the Arena Bar & Cafe, Ahmed, 30, said it was “unbelievable” that someone with racist views could have lived in Hanau.

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“Racism has no meaning here, we never had anything like that before,” he told AFP.

“This is a completely normal bar, I used to buy my cigarettes here!”

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Interior Minister Horst Seehofer both laid wreaths at the crime scene, as residents lingered, crying and sometimes linking arms.

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Steinmeier led a vigil alongside the mayor of Hanau Claus Kaminsky later Thursday, one of more than 50 such events across Germany.

The attacks came amid growing concern in Germany about a rise in right-wing extremism.

In the last year, far-right suspects have been arrested over an attack on a synagogue in the eastern city of Halle and the murder of politician Walter Luebcke, an advocate of liberal refugee policy.

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