FBI finds gunman in Dayton, Ohio, rampage was obsessed with violence

A Oregon District resident stands at a memorial for those killed during Sunday morning's a mass shooting in Dayton, Ohio, U.S. August 7, 2019. REUTERS/Bryan Woolston

By Matthew Lavietes and Steve Gorman

(Reuters) – The gunman who killed his sister and eight other people in Dayton, Ohio, before he was slain by police had a history of violent obsessions and previously mused about committing mass murder, an FBI official said on Tuesday.

FBI agent Todd Wickerham told a news conference two days after the massacre in the streets of Dayton’s historic downtown Oregon District that investigators have yet to conclude what motivated the killer or whether he may have had an accomplice.

Police said in the initial aftermath of Sunday morning’s bloodshed they believed the slain suspect, identified as 24-year-old Connor Betts, a white man from the Dayton suburb of Bellbrook, had acted alone.

The gunman, who was wearing body armor and a mask, opened fire with an assault-style rifle fitted with a high-capacity ammunition drum that could hold 100 rounds, police said. Authorities said officers patrolling the area arrived on the scene and shot the gunman dead 30 seconds after the violence began.

In addition to the nine people killed, including Betts’ sister, more than two dozen others were injured in the attack, which came 13 hours after a shooting spree that claimed 22 lives in El Paso, Texas.

“VIOLENT IDEOLOGIES”

The suspected assailant in Texas surrendered to police and has been charged with capital murder in what authorities are treating as a hate crime and act of domestic terrorism. Most of the victims were Hispanic.

Federal agents have found no clues suggesting the Dayton gunman was influenced by the rampage in El Paso, said Wickerham, the agent in charge of the FBI’s Cincinnati office.

However, he said, “The individual had a history of obsession with violent ideations, including mass shootings, and expressed a desire to commit a mass shooting.”

“We have uncovered evidence throughout the course of our investigation that the shooter was exploring violent ideologies,” Wickerham added.

Much remains unclear. The agent said investigators were seeking to determine what particular ideology may have influenced the gunman, “who, if anyone, helped him or had any advance knowledge of his intentions to conduct this attack, and why he committed this specific act of violence.”

Wickerham said nothing so far indicated the shooting spree was racially motivated, though six of the nine dead were African-American.

Authorities have said that Betts was known to have been a troubled youth in high school, at one point drawing up a “hit list” of students he wanted to kill or otherwise harm.

The Dayton Daily News, citing the recollections of former classmates, reported Betts had been suspended from high school, and detained by police, over the hit list. But Bellbrook police said it had no record of such an incident, the paper reported.

A former girlfriend of Betts, Adelia Johnson, told CNN that he had once shown her a video on his phone of a mass shooting.

“It wasn’t a red flag, which I know is weird to a lot of people, but given the context of him being a psychology student and fascinated in the psychology of these things, that’s what made it digestible,” Johnson told CNN.

“DO SOMETHING”

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, responding to mounting public pressure for action to curb gun violence, proposed a “red flag” law that would allow a judge to order firearms confiscated from any individual deemed to be a threat to themselves or others. Law enforcement and family members could petition the court for such an order.

“We have an obligation to each other,” DeWine, a Republican-backed by the National Rifle Association gun lobby, said at a news briefing. “If someone is showing signs of trouble or problems, we must help and we must not turn away.”

The governor was heckled on Sunday night as he spoke at a vigil for the victims of the rampage. Protesters repeatedly chanted “Do something!” a reference to perceived state and federal inaction to curb U.S. gun violence.

DeWine, who took office in January, previously expressed support for red flag laws after a deadly shooting at a California synagogue in April.

Seventeen states and the District of Columbia have red flag laws on the books, according to the gun-control advocacy group Giffords. Most are under majority Democratic governments. DeWine’s proposal could meet resistance in the Republican-controlled Ohio legislature.

In an address to the nation on Monday, President Donald Trump also backed laws to allow guns to be seized from dangerous individuals while calling for tighter monitoring of the internet, mental health reform and wider use of the death penalty in response to mass shootings.

The president confirmed on Tuesday that he planned to visit both Dayton and El Paso on Wednesday to meet with first responders, law enforcement officials and victims.

Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, a Democrat, said she would welcome the president but plans to tell Trump that his comments “weren’t very helpful to the issue around guns,” referring to his remarks on Monday about ways to curb gun violence.

(Reporting by Matthew Lavietes in New York and Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; additional reporting by Doina Chiacu and Eric Beech in Washington and Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; editing by Jonathan Oatis, Diane Craft and Leslie Adler)

‘Appalling’ arson attack on Japanese animation studio kills at least 33

An aerial view shows smoke and flame rise from the three-story Kyoto Animation building which was torched in Kyoto, western Japan, in this photo taken by Kyodo July 18, 2019. Mandatory credit Kyodo/via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT. JAPAN OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN JAPAN.

By Kiyoshi Takenaka

TOKYO (Reuters) – A man shouted “die” as he doused an animation studio with fuel and set it ablaze in Japan on Thursday, public broadcaster NHK said, killing at least 33 people in the nation’s worst mass murder in nearly two decades.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called the attack in the city of Kyoto – the latest grisly killing in a nation widely known for its low crime rates – “too appalling for words” and offered condolences.

Police detained a 41-year-old man who shouted “die” as he poured what appeared to be petrol around the three-story Kyoto Animation building shortly after 10 a.m. (0100 GMT), public broadcaster NHK reported.

Thirty-three people were confirmed dead, an official for the Kyoto City Fire Department said.

Fire engulfed the building and white and black smoke billowed from its charred windows. It was Japan’s worst mass killing since a suspected arson attack in Tokyo in 2001.

Shiro Misaki, a 47-year old owner of a neighborhood bar five minutes from studio, said he was driving nearby when he saw the thick smoke.

“Policemen were stopping traffic and it was really hazy with smoke,” he said. “Even after I got back to my restaurant I could smell the smoke.”

The prime minister said the cause was arson.

“Today, many people were killed and wounded in an arson murder case in Kyoto,” Abe said in a post on Twitter. “It is too appalling for words.”

The motive was not yet known. The suspected arsonist was injured and was being treated in hospital, so police could not question him, NHK said.

Kyoto police declined to comment.

Kyoto, some 450 kilometers (280 miles) west of Tokyo, is the ancient capital of Japan and major tourist draw for its ancient temples and cultural sites.

Rescue workers carry injured people from the three-story Kyoto Animation building which was torched in Kyoto, western Japan, in this photo taken by Kyodo July 18, 2019. Mandatory credit Kyodo/via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT. JAPAN OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN JAPAN.

Rescue workers carry injured people from the three-story Kyoto Animation building which was torched in Kyoto, western Japan, in this photo taken by Kyodo July 18, 2019. Mandatory credit Kyodo/via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS – THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT. JAPAN OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN JAPAN.

‘I AM HEARTBROKEN’

The dead were found on all three floors of the building, including in the studio, and on a staircase leading up to the roof, the fire department said. It was not clear if the roughly 10 people found dead on the staircase had been trying to escape.

Thirty-six people had been taken to hospital by midday, the fire department said earlier, with 10 of them seriously injured.

By Thursday night the fire department said it had completed its search of the building.

Japanese animation, known as “anime”, includes television series and movies. A pillar of Japanese popular culture, it has become a major cultural export, winning fans around the world.

Kyoto Animation produces popular series such as the “Sound! Euphonium”. Its “Free! Road to the World – The Dream” movie is due for release this month.

“I am heartbroken,” Hideaki Hatta, the studio’s chief executive told reporters. “It is unbearable that the people who helped carry Japan’s animation industry were hurt and lost their lives in this way.”

OUTPOURING OF SUPPORT

There was an outpouring of support for the studio on Japanese-language social media, with some users posting pictures of animation. Many posted with the hashtag “#PrayForKyoani” – using an abbreviation for Kyoto Animation.

The studio has an outsized role in Japan’s animation industry that outstrips the list of works it has produced, said Tokyo-based film commentator Yuichi Maeda.

“It has a huge presence in animation here. To have this many people die at once will be a huge blow to the Japanese animation industry,” he said.

Violent crime is relatively rare in Japan but occasional high-profile incidents have shocked the country.

Less than two months ago, a knife-wielding man slashed at a group of schoolgirls at a bus stop in Kawasaki, just south of Tokyo, killing one girl and the father of another, while injuring more than a dozen children.

In 2016, a man armed with a knife broke into a facility for the disabled in a small town near Tokyo and killed 19 patients.

(Graphic: Fire in Japan’s Kyoto link: https://tmsnrt.rs/2NXcWJ5).

(Reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka, Chris Gallagher, Chang-Ran Kim, Linda Sieg, David Dolan, Mari Saito, Elaine Lies; Writing by Chang-Ran Kim and David Dolan; Editing by Robert Birsel, William Mallard, Nick Macfie and Frances Kerry)

At least 50 dead, more than 400 hurt in Las Vegas concert attack

People wait in a medical staging area on October 2, 2017, after a mass shooting during a music festival in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S. REUTERS/Las Vegas Sun/Steve Marcus

By Devika Krishna Kumar

LAS VEGAS (Reuters) – At least 50 people were killed and more than 400 injured when a gunman opened fire on a country music festival in Las Vegas Strip on Sunday, raining down bullets from the 32nd floor of a hotel for several minutes before shooting himself dead, according to police.

The death toll, which police emphasized was preliminary, would make the attack the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history, eclipsing last year’s massacre of 49 people at an Orlando night club.

Some 22,000 people were in the crowd when the man opened fire, sending panicked people fleeing the scene, in some cases trampling one another, as law enforcement officers scrambled to locate and kill the gunman. Shocked concert goers, some with blood on their clothes, wandered the streets after the attack.

At least 406 people were taken to area hospitals with injuries, the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police said.

Police identified the gunman as area resident Stephen Paddock, 64, and said they had no information yet about his motive. Paddock shot himself before police entered the hotel room he was firing from, Clark County Sheriff Joseph Lombardo told reporters.

Earlier reports indicated that Paddock, who had more than 10 rifles in his hotel room, had been shot by police.

Paddock was not believed to be connected to any militant group, Clark County Sheriff Joseph Lombardo told reporters.

“We have no idea what his belief system was,” Lombardo said. “We’ve located numerous firearms within the room that he occupied.”

Authorities had earlier regarded Paddock’s roommate as a person of interest, but later on Monday said they no longer regarded her as related to the case, CNN and Fox News reported, citing police sources.

The dead included one off-duty police officer, Lombardo said. Two on-duty officers were injured, including one who was in stable condition after surgery and one who sustained minor injuries, Lombardo said. Police warned the death toll may rise.

Police are still finding people who had taken cover during the attack, Lombardo said.

“It’s going to take time for us to get through the evacuation phase,” Lombardo said.

An ambulance leaves the concert venue after a mass shooting at a music festival on the Las Vegas Strip in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S. October 1, 2017.

An ambulance leaves the concert venue after a mass shooting at a music festival on the Las Vegas Strip in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S. October 1, 2017. REUTERS/Las Vegas Sun/Steve Marcus

‘JUST KEPT GOING ON’

Video taken of the attack showed panicked crowds fleeing as sustained rapid gunfire ripped through the area.

“It sounded like fireworks. People were just dropping to the ground. It just kept going on,” said Steve Smith, a 45-year-old visitor from Phoenix, Arizona, who had flown in for the concert. He said the gunfire went on for an extended period of time.

“Probably 100 shots at a time. It would sound like it was reloading and then it would go again,” Smith said. “People were shot and trying to get out. A lot of people were shot.”

Las Vegas’s casinos, nightclubs and shopping draw some 3.5 million visitors from around the world each year and the area was packed with visitors when the shooting broke out shortly after 10 p.m. local time (0400 GMT).

Mike McGarry, a 53-year-old financial adviser from Philadelphia, was at the concert when he heard hundreds of shots ring out.

“It was crazy – I laid on top of the kids. They’re 20. I’m 53. I lived a good life,” McGarry said. The back of his shirt bore footmarks, after people ran over him in the panicked crowd.

The shooting broke out on the final night of the three-day Route 91 Harvest festival, a sold-out event attended by thousands and featuring top acts such as Eric Church, Sam Hunt and Jason Aldean.

“Tonight has been beyond horrific,” Aldean said in a statement on Instagram. “It hurts my heart that this would happen to anyone who was just coming out to enjoy what should have been a fun night.”

 

‘WE’RE HORRIFIED’

The suspected shooter’s brother, Eric Paddock, said the family was stunned by the news.

“We have no idea. We’re horrified. We’re bewildered and our condolences go out to the victims,” Eric Paddock said in a brief telephone interview, his voice trembling. “We have no idea in the world.”

U.S. President Donald Trump offered his condolences to the victims via a post on Twitter early Monday.

“My warmest condolences and sympathies to the victims and families of the terrible Las Vegas shooting. God bless you!” Trump said.

The rampage was reminiscent of a mass shooting at a Paris rock concert in November 2015 that killed 89 people, part of a wave of coordinated attacks by Islamist militants that left 130 dead.

The concert venue was in an outdoor area known as Las Vegas Village, across the Strip from the Mandalay Bay and the Luxor hotels.

“Our thoughts & prayers are with the victims of last night’s tragic events,” the Mandalay Bay said on Twitter.

Shares of U.S. casino operators fell in premarket trading on Wall Street, with MGM Resorts International, which owns the Mandalay Bay, down 5 percent. Melco Resorts & Entertainment Ltd, Wynn Resorts Ltd and Las Vegas Sands Corp each fell 1 to 2 percent.

 

(Additional reporting by Jonathan Allen, Chris Michaud and Frank McGurty in New York and Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Writing by Scott Malone; Editing by Alison Williams and Bernadette Baum)

 

White supremacist found guilty on all counts in Charleston church massacre

South Carolina church massacre shooting suspect Dylann Roof is seen in U.S. District Court of South Carolina evidence photo which was originally taken from Roof's website.

By Greg Lacour

CHARLESTON, S.C., Dec 15 (Reuters) – A federal jury on Thursday found avowed white supremacist Dylann Roof guilty on all counts for gunning down nine black parishioners at a historic church in Charleston, South Carolina, last year.

Twelve jurors deliberated for a little under two hours after six days of chilling testimony about the bloodshed during a Bible study at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church on June 17, 2015. The panel will return on Jan. 3 to decide whether Roof should be sentenced to death or life in prison.

Roof, 22, showed no emotion as the guilty verdicts were read on 33 charges of federal hate crimes resulting in death, obstruction of religion and firearms violations.

“Justice has been served,” South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley said in a statement immediately after the verdict in a case that intensified the debate about race relations in the United States.

In the aftermath of the massacre, Haley led a push that removed the Confederate battle flag from the state capitol
grounds in Columbia. The flag was carried by pro-slavery Confederate forces during the Civil War and is viewed by many as a racist emblem.

Roof’s trial was one of two racially charged proceedings that played out in recent weeks in courthouses across the street from each other in the heart of Charleston’s downtown.

A state murder trial against a former North Charleston police officer who shot and killed a black man fleeing a traffic stop last year ended on Dec. 5 in a mistrial after jurors deadlocked.

Roof’s guilt was not in dispute. But his defense lawyers, hoping to spare him from execution, asked jurors to consider what factors had driven Roof to commit the senseless act and suggested he might be delusional.

The defense did not call any witnesses after the trial judge blocked them from presenting evidence of Roof’s mental state during the guilt phase of the trial. Roof plans to represent himself during the penalty phase.

During closing arguments on Thursday, prosecutors reminded jurors that Roof had been eager to share his story, giving a two-hour videotaped confession to Federal Bureau of Investigation agents and telling one worshipper he was letting her live so she could recount what he had done.

“He must be held accountable for each and every action he took inside that church,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Nathan Williams said. “For every life he took.”

(Additional reporting by Letitia Stein in Tampa, Florida; Writing by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Lisa Shumaker)

Troops and court needed fast to avert South Sudan genocide: U.N.

Council-mandated Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan Yasmin Sooka addresses the Human Rights Council 26th Special Session on the human rights situation in South Sudan, Geneva, Switzerland,

y Tom Miles

GENEVA (Reuters) – World powers can stop a “Rwanda-like” genocide in South Sudan if they immediately deploy a 4,000-strong protection force across the country and set up a court to prosecute atrocities, the head of a U.N. human rights commission said on Wednesday.

Africa’s newest nation plunged into civil war in December 2013 after a long-running feud between President Salva Kiir and his former deputy, Riek Machar, exploded into violence, often along ethnic lines.

“South Sudan stands on the brink of an all-out ethnic civil war, which could destabilize the entire region,” commission chief Yasmin Sooka told an emergency session of the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva.

Fighting was expected to escalate again now that the dry season had started, she said. Gang rape was happening on an “epic” scale, she added, citing cases of women being raped at a U.N. site in the capital Juba within sight of U.N. peacekeepers.

Washington and other powers called the one-day meeting after Sooka’s commission reported this month that ethnic cleansing was already taking place in South Sudan, which only seceded from Sudan in 2011.

Sooka’s comparison with Rwanda referred to the killing of some 800,000 people in three months of ethnic violence there in 1994.

Kiir has denied there is any ethnic cleansing and South Sudan’s ambassador at the council, Kuol Alor Kuol Arop, said his country saw no need for the special session.

International pressure, including the threat of sanctions, has so far failed to halt the fighting in an oil-producing country at the heart of a fragile region that includes Sudan, Ethiopia and Democratic Republic of Congo.

The warring sides agreed to set up a court backed by the African Union in 2015, but one has not appeared.

General view of the Human Rights Council 26th Special Session on the human rights situation in South Sudan, Geneva, Switzerland,

General view of the Human Rights Council 26th Special Session on the human rights situation in South Sudan, Geneva, Switzerland, December 14, 2016. REUTERS/Pierre Albouy

South Sudan’s government has said it will allow a 4,000-strong regional protection force to bolster the U.N.’s existing peacekeeping mission. But it has also not arrived and Sooka said there were fears it would not operate beyond Juba.

“We urge the immediate deployment of the 4,000-strong regional protection force for South Sudan … People all across the country asked that it not be restricted to the capital if it is to protect civilians across South Sudan,” she said.

The 47-member forum adopted a resolution without a vote reminding the government of its responsibility for protecting the population against genocide, war crimes and ethnic cleansing and condemning the widespread violence and rape.

But it watered down the original wording, which would have extended the mandate of the U.N. human rights commission in South Sudan for a year. The commission will report back to the council in the first quarter of 2017.

(Reporting by Tom Miles; Editing by Stephanie Nebehay and Andrew Heavens)

Accused church gunman Dylann Roof to represent himself

Dylann Storm Roof appears by closed-circuit television at his bond hearing in Charleston, South Carolina, U.S.

By Harriet McLeod

CHARLESTON, S.C. (Reuters) – Dylann Roof, an avowed white supremacist accused of murdering nine black parishioners at a historic Charleston, South Carolina church last year, began acting as his own lawyer at his federal death penalty proceedings on Monday.

U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel granted Roof’s request to represent himself at trial but told the defendant it was unwise to cast aside his seasoned attorneys.

Roof, 22, did not say why he wanted to take the lead in his case. The move could give him the opportunity to question the survivors of the shooting if they are called as witnesses.

Roof also faces 33 counts of hate crimes, obstruction of religion and firearms charges stemming from the shooting, which occurred during a Bible study session at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in June 2015.

Prosecutors, who say he planned the attack for months, are seeking the death penalty.

Gergel ruled on Friday that Roof was mentally competent to stand trial, following concerns raised by defense attorneys about their client’s ability to understand the nature of the proceedings against him and to assist in his own defense.

That decision paved the way for jury selection to resume on Monday after a temporary delay this month for a competency evaluation and hearing. Then, in another twist, Gergel said he received a motion from Roof late Sunday seeking to represent himself.

In a Charleston courtroom, the judge asked Roof a series of questions to determine whether he understood the charges, the punishment he faced and the trial duties he was undertaking.

Roof, dressed in a striped gray and white prison jumpsuit, answered “Yes” or “Yes, sir.”

“I find that his decision is knowing, intelligent and voluntary,” the judge said.

Gergel instructed Roof’s legal team to remain on standby, including lead defense lawyer David Bruck, who is considered an expert in death penalty cases.

Once jury questioning got under way, Roof mostly responded “no” each time the judge asked if he had any follow-up questions or objections to potential jurors.

Gergel dismissed several people who expressed conflicted feelings about capital punishment or said a death sentence should always be the penalty for murder.

One woman said she could be fair and impartial but admitted being sickened by the crime, which shook the country and stoked a debate over U.S. race relations. Gergel struck the woman from serving as a juror.

Twelve jurors and six alternates will be chosen to hear testimony.

(Reporting by Harriet McLeod; Writing by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Steve Orlofsky)

Islamic State killed 300 former policemen south of Mosul

Shi'ite fighters ride on a tank heading toward the airport of Tal Afar during a battle with Islamic State militants in Tal Afar west of Mosul, Iraq

BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Islamic State militants probably killed more than 300 Iraqi former police three weeks ago and buried them in a mass grave near the town of Hammam al-Alil south of Mosul, Human Rights Watch said on Thursday.

A Reuters reporter visited the site of the mass grave, where residents said the ultra-hardline militants buried victims who had been shot or beheaded. The residents said they believed up to 200 people were killed in the weeks before Islamic State withdrew from the town.

Human Rights Watch said some of the former policemen were separated from a group of about 2,000 people from nearby villages and towns who were forced to march alongside the militants last month as they retreated north to Mosul and the town of Tal Afar.

It quoted a laborer who said he saw Islamic State fighters drive four large trucks carrying 100 to 125 men, some of whom he recognized as former policemen, past an agricultural college close to the site which was to become the mass grave.

Minutes later, he heard automatic gunfire and cries of distress, he said. The next night, on Oct. 29, a similar scene was repeated, with between 130 to 145 men, he told HRW.

Another witness, a resident of Hammam al-Alil, said he heard automatic gunfire in the area for approximately seven minutes, three nights in a row.

“This is another piece of evidence of the horrific mass murder by ISIS (Islamic State) of former law enforcement officers in and around Mosul,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “ISIS should be held accountable for these crimes against humanity.”

(Reporting by Dominic Evans, editing by Larry King)

Former Auschwitz guard apologizes at trial; says it was ‘nightmare’

Defendant Hanning, a 94-year-old former guard at Auschwitz death camp, arrives for the continuation of his trial in Detmold

By Elke Ahlswede

DETMOLD, Germany (Reuters) – A 94-year-old former Auschwitz guard on trial in Germany apologized in court to victims on Friday, telling them he regretted being part of a “criminal organization” that had killed so many people and caused such suffering.

“I’m ashamed that I knowingly let injustice happen and did nothing to oppose it”, said Reinhold Hanning, a former Nazi SS officer, seated in a wheelchair in the court in Detmold.

Hanning is charged with being an accessory to the murder of at least 170,000 people.

Holocaust survivors, who detailed their horrific experiences at the trial which opened in February, have pleaded with the accused to break his silence in what could be one of the last Holocaust court cases in Germany.

Hanning finally broke the silence he kept over the course of 12 hearings, each limited to two hours due to his old age.

Reading in a firm voice from a paper he took out of his gray suit pocket, he said: “I want to tell you that I deeply regret having been part of a criminal organization that is responsible for the death of many innocent people, for the destruction of countless families, for misery, torment and suffering on the side of the victims and their relatives”.

“I have remained silent for a long time, I have remained silent all of my life,” he added.

Just before, his lawyer, Johannes Salmen, had given a detailed account of the defendant’s view of his life and particularly his time in Auschwitz.

In this 22-page long declaration, Hanning admitted having known about mass murder in the death camp in Nazi-occupied Poland.

“I’ve tried to repress this period for my whole life. Auschwitz was a nightmare, I wish I had never been there,” the lawyer cited Hanning as saying.

The accused was sent there after being wounded in battle and his request to rejoin his comrades on the front had been rejected twice, he said.

“I accept his apology but I can’t forgive him,” said Leon Schwarzbaum, a 95-year-old Holocaust survivor and co-plaintiff.

She said Hanning should have recounted everything that happened in Auschwitz and “what he took part in”.

Although Hanning is not charged with having been directly involved in any killings at the camp, prosecutors accuse him of facilitating the slaughter in his capacity as a guard at the camp where 1.2 million people, most of them Jews, were killed.

A precedent for such charges was set in 2011, when death camp guard Ivan Demjanjuk was convicted.

Accused by the prosecutor’s office in Dortmund as well as by 40 joint plaintiffs from Hungary, Israel, Canada, Britain, the United States and Germany, Hanning is said to have joined the SS forces voluntarily at the age of 18 in 1940.

Hanning on Friday said however that his stepmother, a member of the Nazi-party, urged him to join.

A verdict is expected on May 27.

Germany is holding what are likely to be its last trials linked to the Holocaust, in which more than six million people, mostly Jews, were killed by the Nazis.

In addition to Hanning, one other man and one woman in their 90s are accused of being accessories to the murder of hundreds of thousands of people at Auschwitz.

A third man who was a member of the Nazi SS guard team at Auschwitz died at the age of 93 this month, days before his trial was due to start.

(Writing by Elke Ahlswede and Joseph Nasr; Editing by Angus MacSwan)