Germany ‘heading for epidemic’ as virus spreads faster outside China

By David Stanway and Josh Smith

SHANGHAI/SEOUL (Reuters) – Germany said on Wednesday that it was heading for a coronavirus epidemic and could no longer trace all cases, as the number of new infections inside China – the source of the outbreak – was for the first time overtaken by those elsewhere.

Asia reported hundreds of new cases, Brazil confirmed Latin America’s first infection and the new disease – COVID-19 – also hit Pakistan, Greece and Algeria. Global food conglomerate Nestle suspended all business travel until March 15.

Stock markets across the world lost $3.3 trillion of value in four days of trading, as measured by the MSCI all-country index, but on Wednesday Wall Street led something of a rebound.

U.S. health authorities, managing 59 cases so far, have said a global pandemic is likely, but President Donald Trump accused two cable TV channels that frequently criticise him of “doing everything possible to make (the coronavirus) look as bad as possible, including panicking markets”.

The disease is believed to have originated in a market selling wildlife in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year and has infected about 80,000 people and killed more than 2,700, the vast majority in China.

While radical quarantining measures have helped to slow the rate of transmission in China, elsewhere it is accelerating.

Germany, which has around 20 cases, said it was already impossible to trace all chains of infection, and Health Minister Jens Spahn urged regional authorities, hospitals and employers to review their pandemic planning.

“Large numbers of people have had contact with the patients, and that is a big change to the 16 patients we had until now where the chain could be traced back to the origin in China,” he said.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had also spoken on Tuesday of a nascent pandemic. “It’s not a question of ‘if’. It’s a question of ‘when’ and how many people will be infected,” said its principal deputy director, Anne Schuchat.

‘PANDEMIC’ – OR NOT?

The World Health Organization (WHO) said China had reported 411 new cases on Tuesday – against the 427 logged in 37 other countries.

However, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus advised diplomats in Geneva on Wednesday against speaking of a pandemic.

“Using the word pandemic carelessly has no tangible benefit, but it does have significant risk in terms of amplifying unnecessary and unjustified fear and stigma, and paralysing systems,” he said.

“It may also signal that we can no longer contain the virus, which is not true.”

Dr Bruce Aylward, head of a joint WHO-Chinese mission on the outbreak, told reporters on his return to Geneva:

“Think the virus is going to show up tomorrow. If you don’t think that way, you’re not going to be ready … This a rapidly escalating epidemic in different places that we have got to tackle super-fast to prevent a pandemic.”

Trump tweeted that he would attend a briefing on Wednesday. But the White House denied a report by the Politico outlet that it was considering appointing a “coronavirus czar”.

The WHO says the outbreak peaked in China around Feb. 2, after measures that included isolating Hubei province.

China’s National Health Commission reported 406 new infections on Wednesday, down from 508 a day earlier and bringing the total confirmed cases in mainland China to 78,064. Its death toll rose by 52 to 2,715.

The WHO said only 10 new cases were reported in China on Tuesday outside Hubei.

FEARS FOR OLYMPICS

South Korea, which with 1,261 cases has the most outside China, reported 284 new ones including a U.S. soldier, as authorities prepared to test more than 200,000 members of a Christian church at the centre of the outbreak.

Brazil reported the first case in Latin America, a source said on Wednesday – a 61-year-old who had visited Italy.

In Japan, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called for sports and cultural events to be scrapped or curtailed for two weeks to stem the virus as concern mounted for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Japan has nearly 170 cases, besides the 691 linked to a cruise ship that was quarantined off its coast this month. Six people have died there, including four from the ship.

There have been nearly 50 deaths outside China, including 12 in Italy and 19 in Iran, according to a Reuters tally.

While Iran has reported only 139 cases, epidemiologists say the death rate of around 2% seen elsewhere suggest that the true number of cases in Iran must be many times higher, and cases linked to Iran have been reported across the Middle East.

In Europe, Italy has become a front line in the global outbreak with 322 cases. Italians or people who had recently visited Italy have tested positive in Algeria, Austria, Croatia, Romania, Spain and Switzerland.

Two hotels, one in Austria and one on Tenerife in Spain’s Canary Islands, were locked down over cases linked to Italy.

Authorities said the more than 700 guests at Tenerife’s four-star Costa Adeje Palace could leave their rooms after a day of confinement but would have to stay in the hotel for 14 days.

“It’s very scary because everyone is out, in the pool, spreading the virus,” said 45-year-old Briton Lara Pennington, fearing for her two young sons and her elderly in-laws.

(Interactive graphic tracking global spread of coronavirus https://graphics.reuters.com/CHINA-HEALTH-MAP/0100B59S39E/index.html)

(Reporting by Julie Steenhuysen and Susan Heavey in Washington, Diane Bartz in Chicago, Gavin Jones, Francesca Piscioneri and Crispian Balmer in Rome, Ryan Woo, Yilei Sun and Lusha Zhang in Beijing, Kate Kelland in London, Hyonhee Shin and Josh Smith in Seoul, Geert De Clercq in Paris, Paresi Hafezi and Alexander Cornwell in Dubai and Stephanie Nebehay and Michael Shields in Geneva; Writing by Michael Perry, Nick Macfie and Kevin Liffey; Editing by Pravin Char and John Stonestreet)

Germany tightens carnival security after driver with ‘dead’ expression injures 60

By Joseph Nasr

VOLKMARSEN, Germany (Reuters) – Germany increased security at some carnival processions on Tuesday after a local man plowed his car into a parade in the western German town of Volkmarsen, injuring around 60 people, including at least 18 children.

The incident on Monday shook Germans still struggling to take in last week’s racist gun attack on two bars in the town of Hanau which left 11 people dead.

The driver was detained at the carnival on suspicion of attempted homicide and was being treated for his own injuries.

An emergency responder said bystanders had punched the man while he tried to choke her as she leaned into the car to remove the key.

“He didn’t say a word. He looked at you empty and dead and seemed so satisfied,” Lea-Sophie Schloemer told Welt television. “It was really unnerving how satisfied he seemed.”

The prosecutors’ spokesman said the driver had not yet been in a fit state to be questioned, but was not drunk at the time of the incident. Initial tests for alcohol were negative but that was not a final assessment and there were as yet no results from the drug test.

The motive was still unclear. “We are investigating all possibilities,” he said.

He said earlier there was no sign the investigation would be handed to national prosecutors, suggesting they did not see a political motive.

While some carnival processions in the state of Hesse, home to Volkmarsen, were canceled, others were due to take place in the region on Tuesday. A police spokesman said security would be intensified.

Rose Monday is the height of the carnival season in Catholic areas of Germany, especially in the Rhineland where tens of thousands of people dress up, drink alcohol and line the streets to watch decorated floats that often mock public figures.

Prosecutors said there was no concrete reason to think the risk of attacks at parades had increased, but they urged organizers to review their security arrangements and adjust them if necessary.

Security at public events in Germany has been tightened since a Tunisian man with Islamist militant ties plowed a truck into a Christmas market in Berlin in 2016, killing 12 people. He was later shot dead by Italian police after fleeing.

LIFE-THREATENING INJURIES

A police spokesman said he could not rule out that some of the injured in Volkmarsen were in a life-threatening condition.

Police had detained the driver, a 29-year-old German from the town who had been driving a silver Mercedes car, and he would appear before an investigating magistrate as soon as his condition allowed, state prosecutors said.

“There are so far no indications of politically-motivated criminality,” Bild newspaper cited an investigator as saying.

“But we think that the perpetrator acted with intent, and that psychological problems may have played a role,” the investigator added.

Prosecutors confirmed that a second man had been detained at the scene on Monday and was accused of filming the incident. The spokesman said prosecutors were investigating whether the man had links to the driver, including checking phone records.

The street where the incident happened in the center of the small town was still cordoned off by police on Tuesday and several stores in the area were closed. Residents were in shock.

“It’s terrible. I don’t know how somebody could do this, especially to children,” said 58-year-old Rainer Bellmann.

Locals told Reuters that police had searched two homes in the town, including one apartment near to the scene that a police officer said was the home of relatives of the man.

(Additional reporting by Hans Seidenstuecker in Frankfurt, Michelle Martin and Reuters Television; editing by Philippa Fletcher; Writing by Madeline Chambers and Emma Thomasson; Editing by Andrew Heavens and Philippa Fletcher)

Flights axed and floods feared as Storm Ciara clobbers Europe

By Kylie MacLellan

LONDON (Reuters) – Storm Ciara lashed Britain and northern continental Europe with heavy rain and wind speeds that reached more than 90 miles an hour (145 kph) in places on Sunday, forcing the cancellation of hundreds of flights, train services and sports matches.

More than 200 flood warnings were issued across Britain, which recorded a maximum wind speed of 93 miles an hour at Aberdaron in Wales. One severe flood warning was put in place in Yorkshire, northern England, where water was predicted to overflow flood defenses and potentially threaten lives.

The storm caused major disruption to transport across the region; in the Netherlands, around 240 flights to and from Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport, one of Europe’s busiest, were canceled as Ciara roared in off the Atlantic with gusts of up to 74 mph (120 kph).

In Germany, where Ciara was named Sabine, about 180 flights to and from Frankfurt airport – about 15% of all planned flights – were axed. Lufthansa <LHAG.DE>, Germany’s largest carrier, said it would cancel short and long-haul flights from Munich airport on Monday until 1200 GMT and 1300 GMT, respectively.

Lufthansa’s budget unit Eurowings said it had suspended flight operations at Hamburg, Berlin, Hanover, Dortmund, Duesseldorf, Cologne and Stuttgart. Meanwhile, some British domestic and international flights were also canceled, from airports including Heathrow and Gatwick.

Train services also fell victim to Ciara’s wrath.

German railway operator Deutsche Bahn warned of severe disruptions and said it would stop long-distance train travel across Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, in the evening.

Britain’s Network Rail said the weather had caused problems across its network, with fallen power lines, trees and even trampolines blocking tracks, and warned people not to travel unless they had to.

SPORT DISRUPTED

All shipping movements in and out of Britain’s Port of Dover on the south coast were suspended and the Humber Bridge in northern England was closed to all traffic for only the second time since it opened in 1981.

London’s eight royal parks, home to more than 170,000 trees, were closed and even the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, a tourist draw, was also canceled.

Sporting events were also hit; Manchester City said its English Premier League soccer match against West Ham was postponed due to “extreme and escalating weather conditions”, while Scotland’s Women’s Six Nations rugby match against England was among the other matches canceled.

All professional Dutch soccer matches were canceled, along with most outdoor sporting events.

(Reporting by Kylie MacLellan in London, Christoph Steitz in Frankfurt and Anthony Deutsch in Amsterdam; Editing by Pravin Char)

Man in Germany contracts coronavirus in one of first cases of transmission outside China

By Michelle Martin

BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany has declared its first confirmed case of the coronavirus after a 33-year-old man contracted it from a colleague visiting his workplace from Shanghai, in one of the first cases of person-to-person transmission outside China.

The case raises concerns about the spread of the flu-like virus that broke out in the central Chinese city of Wuhan at the end of last year and has killed 106 people and infected more than 2,800 people.

It spreads in droplets from coughs and sneezes and has an incubation period of 1-14 days.

Bavaria’s health ministry said late on Monday that a man in the southern German state was suffering from the virus and was in “good condition” while isolated under medical observation.

German car parts supplier Webasto [WEBA.UL] on Tuesday said an employee at its headquarters in Stockdorf, Bavaria, had become infected following the visit of an employee from China.

A day earlier it said an employee from Shanghai tested positive for the virus upon returning to China.

Confirmation of any sustained human-to-human spread of the virus outside of China, as well as any documented deaths, would bolster the case for reconvening the World Health Organization’s Emergency Committee to consider again whether to declare a public health emergency of international concern.

The independent panel last week twice declined to declare an international emergency.

In response to the episode, Germany plans to require travelers arriving from China to provide airlines with contact details, including where they are staying while in the country, Health Minister Jens Spahn said on Tuesday.

The step will ensure the authorities can get in touch with people who may have come into contact with infected people. Airlines will need to keep the details for 30 days, he said.

Outside of China there have now been 45 confirmed cases in 13 countries, with no deaths so far, the WHO’s spokesman Christian Lindmeier told a briefing in Geneva on Tuesday.

The WHO said a case in Vietnam involved human-to-human transmission outside China and a Japanese official has said there was a suspected case of human-to-human transmission there too.

Andreas Zapf, president of Bavaria’s office for health and food safety, said on Tuesday the person infected was 33 years old, lived in the district of Landsberg about 50 kilometers (31 miles) west of Munich and had come into contact with a Chinese woman on Jan 21.

WUHAN CONNECTION

Zapf said the Chinese woman was from Shanghai but her parents, who are from the Wuhan region, had visited her a few days earlier.

He added that she had arrived in Germany on Jan. 19, appearing not to have any symptoms, but began to feel ill on her flight home on Jan. 23. She sought medical treatment after landing and tested positive for coronavirus.

When that information was relayed back to the German company, a male employee said he felt like he had flu over the weekend and was on Monday advised to get medical treatment.

The head doctor at the clinic where the man is being treated told a news conference the patient was awake and responsive and he did not think the man’s life was at risk.

Martin Hoch, the head of an infectiology taskforce, said the man had been in close contact with at least 40 colleagues and family members, adding that number could rise.

Bavaria’s health ministry said people who had been in contact with the man had been informed of possible symptoms, hygiene measures and transmission channels.

Germany’s Spahn said the risk to people’s health in Germany from the coronavirus remained low.

(Reporting by Michelle Martin in Berlin; Additional reporting by Madeline Chambers in Berlin, Alexander Huebner in Munich, Kanishka Singh in Bengaluru and Kenneth Maxwell in Tokyo; Editing by Alexandra Hudson)

More U.S. troops leave Iraq over potential injures from missile attack

More U.S. troops leave Iraq over potential injures as Trump downplays brain risk
By Alexandra Alper and Idrees Ali

DAVOS, Switzerland/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday said he did not consider the brain injuries suffered by 11 U.S. service members in Iran’s recent attack on a base in Iraq to be serious, as the American military moved more troops out of the region for potential injuries.

In a separate statement on Wednesday, U.S. Central Command said that more troops had been flown out of Iraq to Germany for medical evaluations following Iran’s Jan. 8 missile attack on the base where U.S. forces were stationed after announcing the 11 injuries last week.

Further injuries may be identified in the future, it added, without giving further details.

A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said about a dozen troops were being transported to Germany.

Trump and other top officials initially said Iran’s attack had not killed or injured any U.S. service members before the Pentagon reversed course on Thursday, saying 11 U.S. troops had been treated for concussion symptoms after the attack on the Ain al-Asad air base in western Iraq.

On Wednesday, Trump declined to explain the discrepancy.

“I heard that they had headaches and a couple of other things, but I would say and I can report it is not very serious,” Trump told a news conference in Davos, Switzerland.

Asked whether he considered traumatic brain injury to be serious, Trump said: “They told me about it numerous days later. You’d have to ask the Department of Defense.”

Pentagon officials have said there had been no effort to minimize or delay information on concussive injuries, but its handling of the injuries following Tehran’s attack has renewed questions over the U.S. military’s policy regarding how it handles suspected brain injuries.

While the U.S. military has to immediately report incidents threatening life, limb or eyesight, it does not have an urgent requirement to do so with suspected traumatic brain injury, or TBI, which can take time to manifest and diagnose.

“I don’t consider them very serious injuries relative to other injuries I have seen,” Trump said. “I’ve seen people with no legs and no arms.”

Various health and medial groups for years have been trying to raise awareness about the seriousness of brain injuries, including concussions.

Such injury can cause symptoms such as memory problems, headaches, and sensitivity to light. Mood changes and possible links to mental illness are also concerns.

(Reporting by Alexandra Alper in Davos and Idrees Ali in Washington; writing by Susan Heavey; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

Thirty years after it fell, the Berlin Wall still divides Germans

Thirty years after it fell, the Berlin Wall still divides Germans
By Paul Carrel

LEIPZIG, Germany (Reuters) – When Matthias Rudolph joined political protests in Leipzig in 1989, he wanted to change the Communist German Democratic Republic. Thirty years on, he enjoys the freedoms the fall of the Berlin Wall brought, but is not entirely happy either.

Like many Germans in the former East, Rudolph, 55, laments the way reunification unfolded – “there wasn’t a new start” – and describes a divided society today that he believes drives some disaffected easterners toward political extremism.

“I didn’t want to do away with the GDR but rather to reform it,” said Rudolph, who was spied on by a colleague and detained for protesting as East Germany limped into its final months. “Personally, I wanted a different GDR, a more democratic GDR.”

The Leipzig protests are widely seen as the beginning of the end of the GDR. Yet, almost 30 years after the Berlin Wall fell on Nov. 9, 1989, a psychological divide remains between east and west: easterners still feel they came off second best.

“There was no reset,” said Rudolph, who complained that reunification was a missed opportunity to remake Germany with a new constitution.

“For west Germans, nothing changed other than post codes. For east Germans, everything changed,” the energy company employee added.

For west Berlin resident Angelika Bondick, 63, whose flat looks over the former Bernauer Strasse checkpoint, the fall of the Wall brought more tourists but no major upheaval. In GDR times, she regularly visited family in the East anyway.

If the dismantling of the Wall signaled the end of the Cold War, it also opened up new routes to walk her dog.

“It’s nice that we can walk in whichever direction we want now,” she told Reuters from her balcony.

The East has endured far more upheaval.

Late chancellor Helmut Kohl, the architect of reunification, promised east Germans “flourishing landscapes” in 1990 but the “Aufschwung Ost” – or eastern economic recovery – proved far slower and more painful than he had imagined.

Two million people, especially young people and women, have left the region since reunification in 1990 and few big global firms have moved in.

After cash injections of 2 trillion euros ($2 trillion) over three decades, the East’s economic output per capita is still three quarters of western German levels. Productivity is lower, and unemployment 2 percentage points higher than in the west.

A government report on the state of German unity last month cited a survey showing 57% of east Germans felt like second-class citizens. Only 38% in the East saw reunification as a success, including only 20% of people younger than 40.

Rudolph said he does not feel like a second class citizen.

“But it is also true that you always have to explain yourself. That’s not nice either,” he said. “I thought that would be over in a few years, but it wasn’t.”

Ilko-Sascha Kowalczuk, a historian and author of ‘The Takeover – how East Germany became part of the Federal Republic’, said the economic shock of reunification disrupted the whole social fabric of eastern Germany.

“There was not a unification process on a level playing field but rather an alignment process … what existed in the west was practiced in the east one-to-one,” he said, adding that some easterners now felt they were not “full value citizens”.

“Since 1990, many east Germans have been trying to be more German than the federal Germans ever were – and that results in an open nationalism and racism,” Kowalczuk added.

“WE ARE THE PEOPLE!”

Easterners’ sense of inferiority provides fertile ground for extreme parties. In the eastern state of Thuringia, which holds a regional election on Sunday, polls show a majority of voters support the far-right AfD and the far-left Linke.

In Thuringia and two other eastern states that held elections last month, the AfD has co-opted slogans that were used during the 1989 protests that led to the fall of the Berlin Wall, including “Wir sind das Volk!” (We are the people!).

The AfD, which is far stronger in the east than the west, is urging voters: “The East rises – complete the change!”

Adopting the word “Wende”, used to describe the fall of East German Communism, the AfD calls for “Wende 2.0” – effectively urging voters to do away with the established parties in a “drain the swamp”-style pitch.

Christian Hirte, the government’s commissioner for the eastern states, says: “It is my firm conviction that the overwhelming majority of eastern Germans do not want anything to do with far-right crackpots who are violent.”

But he acknowledges that xenophobia is an issue damaging to eastern Germany’s attractiveness as a business location.

“We have to tell citizens clearly: it is in our own national and regional interests to be open,” he said.

The message has not got through to everyone.

A report by the ZEW institute earlier this year showed the probability of an asylum seeker becoming a victim of hate crime in eastern Germany is 10 times greater than in the west.

Images like last year’s far-right riots in Chemnitz – the worst such clashes in Germany in decades – and this month’s attack on a synagogue in Halle by a far-right extremist have reinforced the picture of a disenchanted and radicalized east.

In the latest episode of far-right intimidation, police said this week they were protecting the leader of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives in Thuringia after he received a death threat that ended “Heil Hitler!”.

That kind of language is anathema to Dagmar Simdorn, 81, who grew up during World War Two and then lived in the GDR, just a few hundred yards from the Berlin Wall. She still notices differences between easterners and westerners.

“But I think young people are doing better,” she said. “It’s easier for them. They are growing up in this time of freedom. They don’t know about East and West. That’s why I believe it’s so important to remind young people how things were then.”

(Additional reporting by Oliver Denzer; Editing by Giles Elgood)

France worried by new phase in Iran’s breaching of nuclear pact

France worried by new phase in Iran’s breaching of nuclear pact
By John Irish

PARIS (Reuters) – France urged Iran on Wednesday not to scale back further on its commitments to a 2015 nuclear deal, saying Tehran’s new threat to speed up uranium enrichment next month was “especially worrying”.

Iran is breaching restrictions of the pact with major powers step-by-step in response to tough sanctions imposed by the United States, which pulled out of the deal last year.

Tehran has said its next move would be taken on Nov. 6 and diplomats fear this could force a response from European powers, who have been trying to salvage the accord. Britain, France and Germany, all signatories, have refrained from acting so far.

“Iran must abstain from crossing an especially worrying new phase of new measures that could contribute to an escalation in tensions,” French Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Agnès von der Muhll told reporters in a daily briefing.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Monday that Tehran was working on advanced IR-9 centrifuges for uranium enrichment.

The nuclear deal only lets Iran accumulate enriched uranium with just over 5,000 of its first-generation IR-1 centrifuges at Natanz. It lets Iran use small numbers of more advanced models for research, without producing enriched uranium.

Iran is now enriching uranium with advanced centrifuges and installing more that should come online in coming weeks.

Rouhani’s remarks suggested Iran was developing a new centrifuge, the IR-9, violating the deal which specifies the centrifuges Iran can use and making no mention of an IR-9.

French President Emmanuel Macron attempted and failed last month to broker talks between U.S. President Donald Trump and Rouhani in New York. Prospects of any talks in coming weeks seem slim with Tehran demanding U.S. sanctions are lifted first.

The nuclear deal aimed to extend the so-called “breakout time” Iran would need to obtain enough fissile material for a bomb, if it sought one, to a year instead of two or three months.

“Nov. 6 will be Iran’s fourth violation. Until now they have been political and symbolic with a limited impact on the breakout time, but the more they violate, the less choice and latitude they have that doesn’t impact the breakout time,” said a French diplomatic source.

“After November, the world doesn’t end, but it becomes much harder to save the deal,” the source added.

Iran says it has enriched uranium for civilian purposes and has never sought nuclear weapons, but the United States and IAEA believe it once had a nuclear weapons program that it ended.

“Iran is underscoring that it will no longer be hemmed in by the nuclear agreement, nor is it particularly alarmed by the increasingly concerned statements coming out of Europe,” Eurasia’s Iran analyst Henry Rome said.

“This is a recipe for a significant nuclear escalation in early November, not just another incremental step.”

(Reporting by John Irish; Editing by Catherine Evans and Edmund Blair)

German synagogue gunman confesses to crime and to an anti-Semitic motive: prosecutors

German synagogue gunman confesses to crime and to an anti-Semitic motive: prosecutors
By Ursula Knapp

KARLSRUHE, Germany (Reuters) – The man accused of killing two in a gun attack near a synagogue in Halle, eastern Germany, has confessed to the crime and to a far-right, anti-Semitic motivation, prosecutors said on Friday.

Prosecutors described how Stephan B., who published a racist and anti-Semitic manifesto and live-streamed the shooting on Wednesday, had shot two bystanders after failing to enter the synagogue.

Only his poor aim and the unreliability of his home-made firearms had saved from injury nine other people he fired upon during his half-hour rampage, federal prosecutors said at their headquarters in the city of Karlsruhe.

The first victim, a passer-by who shouted at him as he tried to shoot his way into the synagogue as the congregation inside celebrated the Jewish religious festival of Yom Kippur, was a woman of 40, they said.

Minutes later, he attacked a nearby kebab restaurant, injuring one who fell to the floor as other staff and customers ran away. Stephan B. returned to his car to fetch another weapon with which he killed the injured man with several more rounds, the prosecutors said.

He missed nine other targets, who included policemen on his trail, because his weapons jammed or through poor aim, they added.

There has been no public comment yet from the suspect’s lawyers.

Investigators earlier seized evidence from the Halle flat he shared with his mother, including the 3D printer with which he is believed to have made the home-made guns he used in his failed attempt to storm the synagogue, magazine Der Spiegel reported.

In his manifesto, packed with references to the gaming and online messageboard communities he seemingly frequented, the 27-year-old outlined plans to attack the synagogue, expressing the hope that he might also kill Muslims and attack mosques.

Stephan B.’s mother told Der Spiegel that her son had experimented with drugs in his early 20s and barely survived the experience, from which he had emerged a different person.

His full name cannot be published under German privacy laws.

(Additional reporting by Tassilo Hummel; Writing by Thomas Escritt; Editing by Alison Williams and Gareth Jones)

Synagogue attack sparks fear among Jews in Germany

By Joseph Nasr

BERLIN (Reuters) – As Jews left Yom Kippur prayers across Germany on Wednesday, they were jolted by word that an anti-Semitic gunman had attacked a synagogue in the eastern city of Halle hours before, killing two people.

The news heightened fears of more anti-Semitic violence in a nation still scarred by the Holocaust and witnessing the rise of the right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) party.

“It’s very scary,” said Samuel Tsarfati, a 27-year-old stage director, as he left a Berlin synagogue with fellow French national Samuel Laufer.

The pair, who live and work in the German capital, had spent the holiest day in the Jewish calendar secluded in prayer and switched off their mobile phones for 25 hours of fasting.

Other members of Germany’s 200,000-strong Jewish community expressed similar alarm over the attack. After trying to blast into the Halle synogogue, a lone suspect killed a woman outside and a man in a nearby kebab shop.

“It’s not a coincidence it happened in east Germany. The far-right AfD is very strong there,” Tsarfati said. Leaders of the AfD, which made big gains in elections in two eastern states last month, condemned Wednesday’s attack in Halle.

Attacks on Jews rose by 20% last year and were mainly carried out by right-wing extremists. Even before the Halle shooting, a heavy police presence guarded the synagogue in the trendy suburb of Prenzlauer Berg where Tsarfati and Lauferis attended prayers.

Jews and German politicians have been particularly worried by comments by Bjoern Hoecke, the AfD leader of eastern Thuringia state, that the Holocaust memorial in Berlin is a “monument of shame” and that schools should highlight German suffering in World War Two.

“What happened today shows that the AfD should not be underestimated,” said Laufer. “AfD leaders like Hoecke don’t want to see that their words encourage some people to kill.”

Hoecke was among the AfD leaders to condemn the Halle attack.

The Halle gunman broadcast anti-Semitic comments before he opened fire. Several German media outlets said he acted alone although police have not confirmed this.

The far-right AfD entered the national parliament for the first time two years ago, riding a wave of anger at Chancellor Angela Merkel’s 2015 decision to welcome almost 1 million migrants. The party’s rise has alarmed Jewish leaders who condemn the party’s verbal attacks against Muslim migrants.

‘BLINDED BY HATRED’

Charlotte Knobloch, a Holocaust survivor and president of the Jewish Community in Munich, suggested that the AfD’s anti-immigrant rhetoric was contributing to an atmosphere of hate that encouraged political violence.

“This scary attack makes it clear how fast words can become acts of political extremism,” she said in a statement. “I’d be interested to know what that AfD has to say about such excesses, for which it had prepared the ground with its uncultured hate and incitement.”

At the gold-domed New Synagogue in Berlin’s city center about 200 people, including Muslim leaders, held a vigil, some carrying Israeli flags and others holding candles. Merkel visited the synagogue in the evening and took part in prayers.

Renate Keller, a 76-year-old attending the vigil with her husband, said the attack in Halle showed that Germany was not doing enough to fight anti-Semitism.

“It scares me that after the Holocaust some people have learned nothing from our history, which still weighs on us today,” she said. “People like the attacker have probably never met a Jew in their lives. They are just blinded by hatred.”

Josef Schuster, president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, warned of the incendiary potential far-right politics.

“It shows that right-wing extremism is not only some kind of political development, but that it is highly dangerous and exactly the kind of danger that we have always warned against.”

mtpi

(Reporting by Joseph Nasr; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)