(via NBC) — A shooting at a popular shopping center Friday evening in Munich, Germany, killed at least eight people, injured others, and brought the city to a standstill as police hunted for a shooter or shooters in what is being treated as a possible terror attack.
A police spokesman told CNBC that a nine are dead, and investigators were trying to determine if one of the dead is a suspect.
“We are operating on the premise of a terrorist attack,” Munich police spokesman Marcus da Gloria Martins said in a press conference.Martins said police were looking for as many as three suspects, but said there has been some contradiction. Witnesses described long guns being used in the rampage.
According to police, the shooting started at a McDonald’s attached to the Olympia Einkaufszentrum shopping center at around 5:57 p.m. local time (11:57 a.m. ET) before the what were described as suspects made their way into the mall.
Martins said the suspects fled, and as police investigated the identity of one of the bodies a manhunt continued Friday night.
Police earlier said there were unconfirmed reports of violence elsewhere, but Martins later said “we do not have any indications of threat situations beyond the OEZ area at the moment.”All Munich public transportation — subway, bus, and tram — was shut down, according to Munich Transport Corporation MVG.
Tweeting in German for locals and English and French for tourists, Munich police pleaded, “Please avoid public areas.” The U.S. State Department told Americans in Munich to shelter in place and warned against trying to travel to the consulate.
Martins said public transportation would be closed “until we are sure possible attackers on the run are no longer a danger to the population.”A major police operation, which included German special forces, was underway at the mall.
Thamina Stoll, a Duke University student from Munich, was heading to the shopping center with her family when she saw people flee.
“People were running and telling us not to go to the shopping mall. They were in shock. They weren’t able to talk anymore,” Stoll told NBC News. Stoll took a family fleeing the scene to her grandmother’s nearby apartment as helicopters circled above the area.The sprawling two-story Olympia Einkaufszentrum opened in 1972 during the Summer Olympics in Munich, according to the mall’s website.
President Barack Obama was briefed on the situation and pledged to provide Germany any assistance it may require.
“The United States condemns in the strongest terms the apparent terrorist attack that has claimed innocent lives in Munich, Germany,” the White House said in a statement.
“We still do not know all of the facts, but we do know that this heinous act has killed and injured multiple individuals in the heart of one of Europe’s most vibrant cities.”
The shooting is the second attack in Germany’s Bavaria region this week. On Monday, a 17-year-old Afghan injured four people with an ax on a German train near Wuerzburg-Heidingsfeld before he was shot dead.
In May, a man with a knife killed one person and wounded at least three others at a train station in Mainz, near Munich.
The mall attack put other cities on alert.The New York Police Department’s counterterrorism unit tweeted that it was “monitoring events unfolding in Munich.” And the United Kingdom’s Foreign Ministry urged Britons to “avoid this location and follow the advice of local authorities” on its travel advisories page.
The U.S. Consulate in Munich tweeted, “Closely follow police instructions and shelter in place.” The U.S. State Department urged Americans in Munich to contact loved ones. The State Department warned Americans to not attempt to travel to the U.S. consulate.
Starwood Hotels locked down its six hotels in Munich, and increased security at all of its properties in Germany, the company said.
President Obama said Friday that “our hearts go out to those who may have been injured.”
“It’s still an active situation and Germany is one of our closest allies, so we are going to pledge all the support they may need in dealing with these circumstances,” he said.