Suspected far-right terrorist attack shakes Germany’s Muslim community

Far-right, anti-foreigner, and specifically anti-Muslim sentiment appears to be on the rise in Germany.
Thursday 20/02/2020
A police officer stands guard beside candles and flowers near one of the shooting targets, on February 20, 2020, at the Heumarkt in the centre of Hanau, Germany. (AFP)
A police officer stands guard beside candles and flowers near one of the shooting targets, on February 20, 2020, at the Heumarkt in the centre of Hanau, Germany. (AFP)

LONDON - A suspected far-right extremist carried out a gun attack on two shisha cafes in western Germany, killing at least nine people, in what many fear represents another example of the rise of anti-Muslim sentiment in the country.

Federal prosecutors are treating the attack, which took place in the town of Hanau near Frankfurt, as a case of terrorism, with authorities reportedly examining a video the suspect posted online days before the attack in which he expressed right-wing conspiracy theories.

Nine people died in the attack on two shisha cafes at around 10 pm local time on Wednesday, while five others are believed to have life-threatening injuries. The attacker was identified only as 43-year-old Tobias R in line with German prosecution practices.

The attack came less than one week after German authorities announced they had foiled a right-wing terror attack targeting at least 10 mosques across Germany, arresting 12 men and seizing automatic weaponry.

Far-right, anti-foreigner, and specifically anti-Muslim sentiment appears to be on the rise in Germany, with many calling for German authorities to start treating far-right terrorism more seriously.

Hanau, which is located in Hesse state, is a city of 100,000 residents. Hesse Interior Minister Peter Beuth confirmed authorities were examining a website attributed to the suspect. “What we know so far is that there is definitely a xenophobic motive,” he said.   

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas tweeted that if the shooting was motivated by far-right politics, it would be the third far-right act of terrorism in a year.

“If the suspicion is confirmed, the gruesome act in Hanau is the third extreme right-wing murder attack in Germany in a year ... Right-wing terrorism has again become a threat to our country. There is absolutely nothing to put into perspective,” he tweeted.

While German Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, the outgoing leader of Germany’s ruling Christian Democratic Union (CDU) also called for further investigation into the motives behind the attack. “The background must now be clarified further. Violence from right-wing extremists must not let us rest, we must stand against it,” she said.

The four biggest Islamic associations in Germany called for the government to do far more to fight against right-wing extremism. The Coordination Council of Muslims revealed that they had been calling on the government for months to take a “clear stand against Islamophobia.”

“We are angry, because the politically responsible in this country have not taken a decisive stand against right-wing networks and right-wing terrorism,” a statement from the Confederation of the Kurdish Community in Germany said.