Gunmen opened fire near a shopping mall in Munich just before 6 p.m. on Friday, killing six people and wounding many others in an assault that the German police said they were treating as a suspected terrorist attack.
The police said that they were searching for three suspects armed with “long guns.” The manhunt shut down traffic and public transportation across Munich, Germany’s third-most-populous city and the capital of the state of Bavaria, plunging much of the normally bustling metropolis into a desolate and fearful state of lockdown.
“Right now, we don’t know where the perpetrator or perpetrators are,” the Munich police said. “Please be careful and avoid public areas.”
Police officials also issued an appeal to the public not to share images or photographs of the attack or the victims, warning, “Don’t help the perpetrators!”
The police said they received a call at 5:50 p.m. from someone who reported hearing shots on Hanauer Street, moving into Ries Street and then the Olympia-Einkaufszentrum, or Olympia Shopping Center, in the Moosach district, north of the city center.
A video distributed online showed a man dressed in black — apparently armed with a handgun and a rifle — opening fire near a McDonald’s restaurant.
In a statement on their Facebook page, the Munich police said there was no verified information yet on the extent and severity of the injuries or the number of victims.
“The police are engaged with all possible force, and are receiving support from special forces, the federal police and officers from the surrounding region,” the police said.
There were no immediate arrests. The Munich police warned people around the mall to stay in their homes and to get off the street. A square in central Munich, the Karlsplatz, also known as the Stachus, was evacuated, after reports of gunfire, which appeared to be a false alarm.
Train traffic to the main station in Munich was rerouted, according to a spokesman for Deutsche Bahn, the national railroad. Some suburban trains were continuing to operate, but were stopping before they reached the main station, said the spokesman, who asked not to be identified in accordance with company policy.
Bayerischer Rundfunk, the public broadcaster in Munich, reported that a witness had seen a gunman opening fire at the restaurant and then descending into the subway station under the mall.
Television images showed armed police officers atop the shopping mall, trying to get the situation under control. On Twitter and on television, witnesses reported hearing sirens and police helicopters.
“The situation is still completely confusing,” Thomas Baumann, a deputy spokesman of the Munich police, told Deutsche Presse-Agentur, the German news agency. “It is not clear whether there is one or many shooters.”
Miriam Arlt, who was in the area, said in an email interview that she was near the McDonald’s when the shooting occurred.
“I only saw fleeing people and now see police and a helicopter,” she said.
Her roommate, she said, was riding his bicycle across from the restaurant, which is near the entrance of the mall, when he noticed a panicked woman running and waving at a bus parked across the street.
The roommate stopped at a traffic light, where he saw three girls, frightened and crying; on the other side of the street were three people lying on their backs, two of them motionless. As the roommate was talking to the girls, he heard an additional set of gunshots — six or seven, he estimated — coming from the entrance to the mall, and fled. Ms. Arlt said her roommate did not want to give an interview because he had been traumatized by the episode.
The police and security forces in Germany had already been on alert after a 17-year-old man wielding an ax on Monday attacked passengers on a train in Bavaria and then a woman walking her dog, before he was shot dead by the police.
The Olympia Shopping Center, which opened in time for the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, bills itself as the largest shopping center in Bavaria.
The 1972 Summer Olympics were marred by tragedy: Eight Palestinian militants invaded the Olympic Village, and killed two Israeli athletes, and then held nine other Israelis hostage as the terrorists attempted to bargain for the release of 200 Palestinian prisoners in Israel. The hostages, several of their captors and a policeman were killed in a failed rescue attempt.
Follow Melissa Eddy on Twitter @meddynyt.
Reporting was contributed by Gregor Aisch and Franziska Reymann from Berlin; Jack Ewing from Locarno, Switzerland; and Sewell Chan and Christopher D. Shea from London.
SOURCE: The New York Times