German politician Lübcke shot in head at close range

Image source, AFP
Image caption, Police gave few details but confirmed the council chief had been shot in the head with a short-range weapon

German investigators have revealed that a popular regional political leader found dead in his garden was killed by a bullet fired at close range.

They have launched a criminal inquiry into the death of Walter Lübcke, the 65-year-old head of the regional council in the city of Kassel.

Suicide has been ruled out but police say they have no motive.

"We are deeply shocked by the sudden death of our friend," said Hesse state premier Volker Bouffier.

Lübcke's body was found at 00:30 on Sunday morning (22:30 GMT Saturday) on the terrace of his home in the village of Istha, police revealed. He was declared dead two hours later and leaves a wife and two grown-up children.

Image source, Reuters
Image caption, Police say they have no indication of a motive for the killing in the quiet village of Istha

"We still have no clues about perpetrators and above all no motive either," said crime bureau chief Sabine Thurau. Prosecutors declined to give much more information but they did say the weapon used in the killing was a short-range firearm aimed at the victim's head.

Lübcke was a leading local member of Mr Bouffier's ruling centre-right CDU in the central German state, running the authority in one of Hesse's three regional areas for the past decade.

He came to national prominence in October 2015 when he spoke out in favour of providing accommodation for refugees. Germany had decided to let in Syrians fleeing the civil war, and big numbers of asylum seekers were crossing Germany's borders on a daily basis.

He reportedly received death threats and was given personal protection after telling a rowdy town hall meeting they had to stand up for Christian values. "Whoever does not support these values can leave this country any time, if he doesn't agree. This is the freedom of every German," he said.

However, a council spokesman told Süddeutsche Zeitung that the threats against him had fizzled out. His party praised him as a "bridge-builder who could not have been better".

The village of Istha, which is home to only 900 people, had been hosting a beer festival, which ended on Saturday and one local report speculated that he might have met someone at the time of the event.

Police have cordoned off his home and the family has been given protection.

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