MUNICH, Germany – Munich police launched a massive manhunt after a gunman opened fire at a McDonald’s in a shopping mall in the city, leaving numerous people dead and injured.
Officials said that multiple people were feared dead in the attack even as special police teams swarmed the area looking for assailants.
It was later confirmed ten people had been killed at the Olympia-Einkaufszentrum shopping mall, including the shooter, who police have identified as an 18-year old German-Iranian.
A police spokeswoman at the outset said, “We believe there was more than one perpetrator. The first reports came at 6 p.m., the shooting apparently began at a McDonald’s in the shopping center. There are still people in the shopping center. We are trying to get the people out and take care of them.”
Police continued evacuating the mall hours after the attack as many were believed to be hiding inside. Some reports claimed that Munich’s main railway station too was evacuated.
All public transport in the city was brought to a halt.
According to reports, witnesses described three shooters as carrying “long guns” and opening fire at a McDonald’s inside the mall.
Police later said the shooter appeared to change his appearance during the course of the attacks and they now believe there was only one shooter involved, and it is understood he shot himself in the head and died after his rampage.
Germany’s DPA news agency quoted police officials as saying, “We expect multiple dead.” A press conference by Munich Police later Saturday night confirmed the death toll at ten, comprising nine victims and the gunman, and 21 people had been injured, three of them seriously.
The motivation of the shooter remains unclear. “We cannot rule out that it is linked to terrorism but we can’t confirm it either, but we are also investigating in this direction,” Peter Altmaier, Chief-of-Staff for Chancellor Angela Merkel told German television.
Another report said the man was mentally disturbed.
Commenting on Facebook earlier, Munich police said that witnesses reported three different people with weapons.
The police have urged people to stay at home and take cover in buildings and Munich transport authorities said they had halted several bus, train and tram lines.
The US Consulate in Munich posted on Twitter saying, “We strongly advise all to shelter in place. Munich police are reporting multiple shooting incidents in the city.”
The attack on civilians in the mall comes merely days after a 17-year-old asylum-seeker, an Afghan national, injured four people in an axe attack on a train near Wuerzburg.
While four people from Hong Kong that were injured in the attack survived, one of the local victims is still battling for life. The attacker was however killed by the police. The Islamic State (ISIS) militant group claimed the train attack.
Reports pointed out that earlier in the day, Bild newspaper quoted the German Justice Minister Heiko Maas as saying that there was “no reason to panic but it’s clear that Germany remains a possible target.”
Facebook has activated its safety check for people caught up in the Munich terror attack. Residents of the city also took to Twitter to hashtag for shelter using the tags OffeneTr and Opendoor to offer shelter for people fleeing the city.
News of the attack rattled investors. The German Dax stock exchange which had been trending higher throughout the day, dropped sharply. It recovered however to close down 8.75 points or 0.09% at 10,147.46.