German Halle gunman admits far-right synagogue attack

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A person believed to be the suspect in the Halle shooting is assisted by policemen to get out of a helicopter after it landed at the Federal Supreme Court (Bundesgerichtshof) in Karlsruhe, southern Germany, on October 10, 2019Image source, AFP
Image caption,
A man thought to be Stephan Balliet is seen being taken out of a helicopter for the hearing in Karlsruhe

A man has confessed to an attack on a synagogue in Germany in which two people died, and admitted a far-right, anti-Semitic motive, during a hearing with an investigating judge.

Stephan Balliet, 27, spent several hours giving evidence before a federal court judge about the attack in the eastern city of Halle.

He was arrested on Wednesday after a 40-year-old woman was shot dead in front of Halle's synagogue.

A man aged 20 was also fatally shot.

He was attacked inside a kebab shop after the gunman tried unsuccessfully to storm the synagogue, firing on the door several times.

Image source, EPA
Image caption,
The gunman streamed his attack online and published a far-right manifesto

Inside the synagogue, 51 people were marking Yom Kippur, the holiest day in Judaism. Investigators believe his intention was to carry out a massacre and have revealed that 4kg (9lb) of explosives were found in his car.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
People in Halle paid their respects late on Thursday to the two people killed in the gun attack

Stephan Balliet faces a double murder charge as well as seven counts of attempted murder. Before he was captured, he also wounded a man and a woman. He is now being held in pre-trial detention.

His lawyer Hans-Dieter Weber told Germany's public broadcaster, Südwestrundfunk, that his client stood by his actions.

"It would be nonsensical to deny it, and he didn't do that. In his view of the world, he blames others for his own misery and that's what ultimately triggered his action," the lawyer said.

The gunman streamed his attack online for 35 minutes and published a far-right manifesto. Prosecutors say it is too early to say if he had accomplices and whether he was part of any far-right group.

'Away from the windows!'

By Jenny Hill, BBC News, Halle

Christina Feist was inside the synagogue as the gunman tried - and failed - to shoot his way into the building.

Media caption,

Christina Feist describes being inside the synagogue as the Halle gunman attempted to attack it

"We were actually just in the middle of Shacharit, which is the morning service, reading Torah, when I heard and saw explosions and two clouds of smoke right outside the window," she said. "For a couple of seconds everyone was silent, and then all of a sudden everything went super-fast. The cantor who was leading prayer immediately understood what was going on.

"He said: 'Everyone out of here - go to the next room, go upstairs, be on the floor, go down and go away from the windows.'"

The horror and confusion which engulfed Halle on Wednesday has been replaced by bewilderment and painful questions.

What many in Halle's Jewish community - and others besides - want to know is why there was no police guard to protect them.