(CN) — A far-right extremist killed nine people at or near two hookah bars in the German city of Hanau Wednesday night, and killed himself and his mother, German officials said.
The shooting left Europe in shock as it again found itself dealing with far-right terrorism at a time of rising xenophobia that has come to roil European politics and bring to power far-right parties.
“Racism is a poison that exists in our society,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in televised remarks Thursday. “This is a very sad day for Germany; we have great empathy for everyone.”
She offered her condolences and pledged that German institutions will “do our utmost to counter these incidents.”
“We understand the perpetrator had far-right motives, xenophobic motives,” the chancellor said.
Federal German prosecutors said the attacker left a video and letter expressing far-right views. German media identified the 43-year-old suspect as Tobias Rathjen. He was not on the radar of police, German media reported.
Six people were wounded in the attacks. The suspected attacker’s body was found in his home along with the body of his 72-year-old mother, officials said. He killed his mother before the shooting spree.
The attack in Hanau, near Frankfurt, was the latest in a string of attacks by far-right extremists in Germany and elsewhere in Europe.
The previous deadly far-right attack in Germany occurred last October when Stephan Balliet, a 27-year-old German, killed two people in a synagogue in the city of Halle during Yom Kippur. Investigators found nine pounds of explosives in his car. Last June, politician Walter Lübcke, a member of Merkel's party who expressed support for immigrants, was assassinated outside his home by a suspected far-right extremist.
On Thursday, German officials in Hanau letter, he said they found a letter of confession the killer left in which he expressed outrage over the influx of immigrants to Germany.
Anger over immigration has grown in Europe since 2015 when hundreds of thousands of refugees and asylum-seekers, many of them fleeing the civil war in Syria, sought refuge in Europe.
The Hanau rampage took place in a part of the city where immigrants and Muslims live. Details about the victims were not immediately available, though officials said five Turkish nationals were among those killed.
Turkey condemned the attack and called on Germany to fully investigate. Ibrahim Kalin, a spokesman for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, said it was a “racist attack” and added that racism was a “collective cancer.”
Abdassamad El Yazidi, the general secretary of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany, denounced the shooting as an “attack on democracy” and called on German authorities to do more to protect immigrants and Muslims.
There was an outpouring of grief and horror across Europe.
French President Emmanuel Macron said he felt “immense sadness” and that he stood “with Chancellor Merkel in this fight for our values and the protection of our democracies.”
Players for German football teams scheduled to play Europa League games planned to wear black ribbons in commemoration of the dead. Carnival celebrations in Munich were canceled Thursday and an evening vigil was to be held in Hanau, a city that was flattened by bombardment in World War II and that serves as an industrial hub known for working precious metals.