'Someone lay on the floor, presumably dead' - witnesses tell of horror attack
Published 23/07/2016 | 02:30
Munich's Olympia shopping centre was as busy as it usually is on a Friday evening. Commuters were picking up groceries for the weekend, while families were eating at its numerous cafes and restaurants.
At 5.50pm local time, the peace and quiet - or at least the normal hustle and bustle - would be shattered. Terrorism on a mass scale was being unleashed on Germany.
"There is a major police operation under way in the shopping centre," Munich police said on Twitter in the first inkling of the horrors that were unfolding at the Olympia Einkaufszentrum (OEZ) shopping centre, close to the Olympic stadium. Another tweet reinforced the message: "Attention - avoid the neighbourhood around the OEZ. Stay in your homes. Leave the street." Munich was under attack.
Video footage released on the internet appeared to show one gunman, dressed in black, possibly with an ammunition belt draped over his shoulder, walking out of a McDonald's restaurant, opposite the north-west entrance to the shopping centre. He lifts what seems to be a handgun and takes aim, firing in excess of 20 shots at a group of five passers-by.
What happened next is unclear; their fate unknown. The video footage, posted on Facebook by Felix Urbauer, is shaky and the camera phone's holder runs for his life. In reality, the chances of the gunman's targets surviving the onslaught is slim. Mr Urbauer later posted: "I am fine... I post this so you know what this guy looks like. Stay safe."
Inside the shopping centre, a gun battle raged. Reports suggested at least three gunmen, armed with "long rifles", were on the rampage, one gunman later moving to the car park.
"I saw somebody lying on the floor, presumably dead and there's a woman over them, crying," shop worker Lynn Stein told CNN.
Other footage showed shoppers running for their lives as sirens blared. A body, covered by a blanket, was photographed lying on the floor. Police, some dressed in full combat clothing, flooded the area. An electrical shop next to the shopping centre was used as a makeshift hospital.
The transport system was immediately shut down, including Munich's main railway station. The lockdown may have come too late. Some 45 minutes after the attack on the shopping centre, reports emerged of shooting near Marienplatz subway station, 10 stops from the Olympic Park area. It was not clear if that was a separate terrorist cell, a false alarm or the same gunmen.
To add to the confusion, footage appeared to show one gunman, dressed in black, prowling the rooftop of the shopping centre car park. He can be heard shouting: "I am a German." Incredibly, eyewitnesses swear at him and hurl abuse. One shouts at the gunman, from the safety of another rooftop: "You a-------… now I have to buy a weapon to [unintelligible]..."
Why the gunman was shouting "I am a German" was unclear - but it did raise the prospect that the attack, initially assumed to be a co-ordinated Isil-style terrorist raid, could have been perpetrated by German neo-Nazis.
Another unconfirmed report suggested eyewitnesses had heard one of the gunmen scream "F---ing foreigners", while another said he was wearing boots, typically worn by far-Right extremists. (© Daily Telegraph, London)