Germany: Shooter Released 'Hateful' Content Online Before Synagogue Attack

Published October 10th, 2019 - 10:03 GMT
Stephan Balliet, 27, has been identified as the German synagogue attacker. (AFP/ File Photo)
Stephan Balliet, 27, has been identified as the German synagogue attacker. (AFP/ File Photo)
Highlights
Stephan Balliet, 27, identified as anti-Semitic shooter who killed two after failed attack on German synagogue.

An anti-Semitic gunman who shot two people dead in Germany after trying and failing to massacre worshippers inside a synagogue on Yom Kippur was a loner who lived with his mother, it has been revealed. 

Stephan Balliet, 27, spent hours online and was a user of Twitch - a live-streaming service popular with video gamers - where he shared footage his rampage on Wednesday in chilling echoes of the Chirstchurch mosque attack in New Zealand. 

Balliet's father, who was not named, told Bild that his son was an angry young man who 'was not at peace with himself or with the world, and always blamed everyone else' for his problems.

It was also revealed that Balliet posted a manifesto online a week ago where he specifically talks about attacking the synagogue in Halle while outlining his plan to kill 'anti-whites', including Jews.

In the wake of the attack, Jewish community leaders criticised German authorities for failing to do enough to combat rising anti-Semitism, while demanding round-the-clock security for Jewish sites in the country.

'The fact that, 75 years after the Holocaust, such groups are gaining influence in Germany speaks volumes,' Ronald Lauder, head of the World Jewish Congress, said. 

Around 50 terrified worshippers - including 10 Americans - were trapped inside the synagogue during the attack, which they watched unfold on security cameras that broadcast to TV screens inside the prayer house.

Roman R, 31, told local media that he was in the middle of Yom Kippur prayers when he heard a bang and went into the corridor to see smoke coming into the building.

The majority of those inside - including the elderly and children - went to find shelter while Roman and five other men barricaded the door to the prayer room, called police, and then prepared themselves to fight back.

He described watching as Balliet shot at the wooden doors, believing they would give way any moment and that he would come inside and attack them.

Fortunately the doors held, explosives that Balliet placed at the doors did not go off, and flammable liquid he sprayed at the building failed to light.

After failing to get into the synagogue, Roman watched as Balliet left to continue his attack elsewhere as police arrived. He remained trapped inside the building for hours afterwards before finally being freed once officers had disarmed the explosives. Afterwards worshippers were pictured hugging and laughing as they were led away. 

Balliet was not a known extremist, Bild reported, and appears to have self-radicalised while living alone with his mother in Heldbra, a village around 25 miles from Halle, and spending lots of his time online.

He born in Eisleben, another village close to Heldbra and lived with both of his parents until they divorced when he was 14 years old.

After that he went to live with his mother in Heldbra, which is where he was staying at the time of the attack, although he routinely saw his father who lives in Benndorf, about a five minute drive away.

The father said he last saw his son on Tuesday, around 24 hours before the attack, when he was confrontational.

'There was always a fight, my opinion did not count,' he said. 'I couldn't reach him any more.'

While the man didn't reveal details of his final conversations with his Balliet, when asked whether he thought about his son after reports spread of an attack on a synagogue, he stayed silent and began weeping.

Records seen by Bilt reveal that Balliet graduated from high school and went on to study chemistry for two semesters at a higher education institution, but had to abandon his studies after a serious stomach operation.

It is not clear exactly what he did for work after quitting his studies, though a neighbour said he was working as a broadcasting technician at the time of the attack.

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Video taken of Balliet during the rampage suggests he was at least familiar with combat tactics, even if he had no formal training, as he can be seen taking shelter while firing his weapons and moving around as a solider might.

In footage that he streamed online, Balliet also claims he built his weapons himself, suggesting a familiarity with mechanical engineering, though he can also be heard lamenting the fact that his guns keep jamming.

In a manifesto which was posted online as a PDF document, the author included pictures of the weapons and ammunition used in the attack, according to extremism monitoring service SITE.

The manifesto also mentioned a live-stream as well as his objective to kill 'anti-whites', including Jews.

'This manifesto document, which appears to have been created a week ago on October 1, gives yet more indication how much planning and preparation' the gunman put into the attack, Rita Katz, director of SITE, said. 

German newspaper Die Welt reported that the text, which is about 10 pages long and written in English, specifically mentions the plan to attack the synagogue in Halle during Yom Kippur.

The rampage was streamed live for 35 minutes on Twitch, and eventually seen by some 2,200 people, the online platform said. 

Police subsequently captured a suspect after a gun battle that left the man injured, though they have refused to say whether the man they captured is the same one seen online.

It is thought that Balliet tried and failed to get into the Halle synagogue where around 80 people were praying, before shooting through the doors, throwing explosives, and then laying bombs outside.

He then gunned down a woman in the street before driving around the corner to a kebab shop where he again opened fire, killing a man and wounding several others.

Video taken outside the shop shows a man wearing tactical gear and a helmet with a camera strapped to it climbing out of a car and firing several shots into the street with what appears to be an improvised shotgun.

He then walks up and down the road in full view of security cameras before fleeing in the direction of Wiedersdorf.

After arriving in that village he shot an electrician in a workshop, then stole a taxi and made his way on to the A9 motorway, skirting around the city of Leipzig, before turning on to the B91 towards Zeitz.

It was there that he was confronted by police and arrested after a brief gun battle, Bild reports. 

Chancellor Angela Merkel joined a solidarity vigil at Berlin's main synagogue on Wednesday, and firmly condemned the anti-Semitic rampage.

But Jewish leaders said that words were not enough, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu joining calls for German authorities to 'act resolutely against the phenomenon of anti-Semitism'.

The head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany ripped into the authorities for failing to provide adequate security on such a key day.

'It is scandalous that the synagogue in Halle is not protected by police on a holiday like Yom Kippur,' said Josef Schuster.

'This negligence has now been bitterly repaid.'

Ronald Lauder, who heads the World Jewish Congress, also stressed: 'We need action not words' as he called for round the clock security for Jewish sites.

'We also need immediately to launch a unified front against neo-Nazi and other extremist groups, which threaten our well-being.

'The fact that, 75 years after the Holocaust, such groups are gaining influence in Germany speaks volumes.' 

In a copy of a 35-minute video obtained by AFP the gunman filmed himself launching into a diatribe against women and Jews, before carrying out the attack.

The video's authenticity has been confirmed by the SITE monitoring group but not by police. 

The gunman also published an anti-Semitic 'manifesto' online more than a week ago, according to SITE director Rita Katz, who said the document showed pictures of the weapons and ammunition he used.

In the video, he was seen trying to force open the synagogue door before shooting dead a female passer-by. He then tried unsuccessfully to blast open the gate of the Jewish cemetery with explosives.

The man was later seen shooting at a patron of a kebab shop about 600 metres (yards) away from the synagogue.

Jewish community leader Max Privorotzki, who was in the Halle synagogue, told the Stuttgarter Zeitung of the harrowing minutes as the site came under assault.

'We saw through the camera of our synagogue that a heavily armed perpetrator wearing a steel helmet and rifle was trying to shoot open our door.'

Between 70 and 80 people were in the synagogue then, Privorotzki said.

'We barricaded our doors from inside and waited for the police,' he said, adding that 'in between, we carried on with our service.' 

Among those in the synagogue were 10 Americans, as well as several Israelis, who had turned up in Halle especially to join the small local population in celebrating Yom Kippur.

'We've made it out with our lives, in health and amazing spirits,' wrote Rebecca Blady, a Jewish American community leader, who was in the synagogue.

The owner of the kebab shop, Rifat Tekin, meanwhile described the gunman as 'calm like a professional'.

'Maybe he has done this many times. Like me making a kebab, he's doing this - like a professional.' 

Anti-terrorist prosecutors confirmed that they were taking over the probe given 'the particular importance of the case' which involved 'violent acts that affect the domestic security of the Federal Republic of Germany'.

Wednesday's shootings came three months after the shocking assassination-style murder of local pro-migrant politician Walter Luebcke in the western city of Kassel, allegedly by a known neo-Nazi.

Luebcke's killing has deeply shaken Germany, raising questions about whether it has failed to take seriously a rising threat from right-wing extremists.

Investigators have been probing the extent of suspect Stephan Ernst's neo-Nazi ties and whether he had links to the far-right militant cell National Socialist Underground (NSU).

Interior Minister Horst Seehofer last month warned of the rising danger of the militant far right, calling it 'as big a threat as radical Islamism'. 

This article has been adapted from its original source.


© Associated Newspapers Ltd.

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