Somebody reset the “days without a horrible international event” counter to zero.
What? It was already on zero? OK then.
“Several” people have reportedly been killed in a spree shooting that took place in a shopping mall in Munich that took place about an hour and a half ago as I write this (7:30 Munich time, 1:30 in the eastern US). That seems to be all that anybody knows right now, and it’s important to bear that in mind even as everybody’s mind understandably goes to terrorism. Per the people talking right now on my TV, it’s clear that the shooter or shooters are still at large, and increasingly authorities seem to be talking about “shooters,” plural, though that may be more out of an abundance of caution than based on any hard evidence.
Again, nothing factual is known about who carried out this attack or what motivated it, but certainly terrorism is high on the list of likely explanations. Last week’s attack in Nice is still fresh in everybody’s mind, and just a few days ago (on Monday) a 17 year old Afghan refugee attacked passengers on a train in Würzburg with an axe and a knife, wounding four people. He reportedly pledged allegiance to ISIS in a video published by ISIS’s Amaq news agency. And, inevitably given the nature of the target, comparisons are being drawn between this attack and al-Shabaab’s brutal assault on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya, in 2013–though nobody is suggesting, at least not yet, that this attack will prove to be as deadly as that one was. Shopping malls are one of the softest targets imaginable for attackers–terrorists or otherwise–and so it’s unfortunately not surprising to see another one targeted.
I’ll try to keep updating as developments warrant.
UPDATE 1: The shooting at the shopping mall seems to be over or at least trending in that direction. Unfortunately, the reason it appears to be over is because there are now reports of shootings in other parts of the city. Unclear a) whether those are accurate and b) whether they involve the same attackers from the mall or other groups of attackers. There are now reports that the mall attackers may have gotten into the Munich subway system.
UPDATE 2: Seeing fragmented reports that this might be right-wing terrorism rather than Islamic terrorism. Nothing solid by any means. I’m currently indisposed but will be back at it shortly.
More to come, unfortunately.
UPDATE 3 (6 PM EDT): I’ve been away from attwiw HQ for a while now, and as it stands now nine dead bodies have been found–eight presumed victims at the mall and a ninth, found some distance away, that may be the body of the attacker or one of the attackers. While it always bears repeating that reports of multiple shooters in events like this usually wind up being mistaken, eyewitness reports that there were three different shooters involved in this attack are proving difficult to dismiss.
Among the many unknowns still swirling around this attack is the identity/ideology of the attackers. Islamic terrorism, and specifically something involving ISIS on some level, is the obvious guess given what’s been happening in Europe over the past several months, and I haven’t seen anything that rules that out. ISIS hasn’t yet made any kind of claim of responsibility, but it’s still early for that, and there are ISIS-affiliated voices out there who are, at least, happy about the attack. But there are some indications, again nothing anywhere near conclusive, that this might have been right-wing/xenophobic terrorism, like reports that the shooter/one of the shooters may have shouted “I am German” and a few other anti-foreigner phrases as he was firing on people–though there are other reports saying the shooter/one of the shooters shouted “Allahu Akbar,” so I want to emphasize that nothing is certain right now. Today also happens to be the fifth anniversary of Anders Breivik’s horrific series of terrorist attacks in Oslo, so there would be some symbolism there for a potential right-wing attacker.
A third possibility, that this was one mentally ill shooter who was just shouting anything that came to mind, but at this point that’s even more speculative than the other two possibilities.
UPDATE 4 (10 PM EDT): The situation appears to be over and it appears that, as is often the case, those early reports about multiple shooters were in fact inaccurate. That body that was found earlier some distance away from the mall where the shooting took place does appear to have been the body of the lone shooter, identified as an 18 year old dual German-Iranian citizen. Police seem to have moved somewhat off of their initial belief that this was terrorism and are now treating it as a “shooting” that could possibly have had terrorist motives. The latest reports say that ten people were killed overall, which means that one other victim has been added to the death toll in the past few hours.
What were those motives? Still entirely unclear. The only fact we have about the alleged shooter, his dual citizenship, doesn’t help clarify things.