February 21, 2020
IntelBrief: Far-Right Terrorist Attack Puts Germany on Edge
Late Wednesday evening in Hanau, Germany, a town located 15 miles east of Frankfurt, a lone individual identified as ‘Tobias R.’ went on a terrorist rampage, shooting patrons at two separate hookah bars and murdering nine people. The attacker was later discovered dead from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound in his home, where his elderly mother was also found murdered. Federal prosecutors in Germany have assumed responsibility for the case. Peter Beuth, the interior minister for Hesse, told regional lawmakers in Wiesbaden that all available evidence so far points to a ‘far-right motive’ for the terrorist attack. The suspect had a license for firearms and ammunition, and gun magazines were located in his car following the attack. He was previously unknown to authorities, although he expressed paranoia that he had been followed by the intelligence services for long periods of time. German police agencies have added hundreds of officers to counter the growing threat of violent right-wing extremism and white supremacy.
Several videos and a manifesto began circulating in German media. The terrorist has been described as a 43 year-old man motivated by an eclectic mix of anti-immigrant beliefs, eugenics, conspiracy theories, and misogynist ideology. There are some indications that ‘Tobias R.’ was a voluntary celibate (as opposed to an involuntary celibate, or ‘incel’) and part of a fringe community called ‘Men Going Their Own Way,’ or MGTOW, which expresses vehemently anti-feminist and misogynist viewpoints. His manifesto reveals a hatred for non-whites and foreigners, which may be why he selected the hookah bars as his target, as they are a popular hangout for Hanau’s Kurdish community. Some of the victims were reportedly of Turkish origin. The terrorist’s manifesto calls for the extermination of people from the Middle East, North Africa, and Central Asia, although it focuses more on race than religion, highlighting his belief in eugenics and the ‘science’ or race superiority. At one point in the manifesto, the terrorist writes ‘Not everyone who has a German passport is purebred and valuable.’
The Hanau terrorist also seems paranoid and delusional in rants about underground tunnels in the United States, and references to President Donald Trump and Jurgen Klopp, coach of the Liverpool Football Club, a European soccer team. It is unclear whether the attacker acted alone or belonged to a broader network of ideologically like-minded individuals, but it seems that he followed a ‘do-it-yourself’ approach to selecting the targets and carrying out the shootings. Some German officials commenting on the case have already referenced similarities to Anders Breivik, the white supremacist terrorist responsible for killing 77 people in Oslo and Utoya Norway in 2011. It remains uncertain if the Hanau attacker looked to Breivik for inspiration, although he apparently believed in similar far-right talking points about white genocide, even if he doesn't explicitly use that term itself. Germany has experienced a wave of surging anti-Semitism, neo-Nazi and white supremacist violence over the past several years.
German authorities have suggested that throughout the country, there are as many as 12,000 people adhering to far-right views and who could potentially engage in acts of violence. The attack has put Germany on edge, as just last week the police broke up a neo-Nazi cell of approximately a dozen individuals, including one police employee. Those arrested were thought to belong to Der harte Ken (The Hard Core) and were planning a series of attacks on mosques, politicians, and asylum seekers. Members of the group allegedly met via WhatsApp and may have links to the Soldiers of Odin, a far-right group prominent in Scandinavia. In January of this year, German police raided the homes of members of Combat 18, a neo-Nazi group with a growing presence in Germany and connections abroad. In October 2019, a white supremacist attacked a synagogue in Halle, Germany using a 3-D printed gun. In June 2019, pro-refugee politician Walter Lubcke was assassinated by a far-right extremist with links to Germany’s neo-Nazi underground. German chancellor Angela Merkel commented on the Hanau attack, noting that ‘racism is a poison, hate is a poison,’ and adding ‘This poison exists in our society and it’s at fault for too many tragic events.’
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