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Incident At Theater Rattles A Nervous Germany


We are following right now reports of an incident involving a shooter in a movie theater in Germany. NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson is in Berlin with the latest details for us. Soraya, what do we know at this point?

SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON, BYLINE: Well, the shooter is dead. That much seems to be clear. A SWAT team was sent in. This was in a small town near Mannheim, the city of Mannheim, in south central Germany - I guess is the best way to describe it. And apparently, the SWAT team went in and they were able to kill the masked man. There's no clear identification who this person was or what ethnicity he was or what his motive was. But obviously there are a lot of jitters here that perhaps this was related to some sort of terrorism or terror attempt. There were - as far as we know, none of the people who were in the theater with this gunman were injured.

GREENE: Well, I mean that would be very good news because there were some earlier reports suggesting otherwise, but as far as we know at this point I mean, no one, injured no one killed, which would be very - a big relief.

NELSON: Well, apparently the police were treating some people on the outside, at least according to a spokesman who was interviewed by local television here. He did say that there might've - I mean there was some indication there were perhaps some people injured by tear gas and other measures that were taken by police in order to subdue this gunman.

GREENE: How much unease is there right now in Germany? I mean I think about the terror attacks that I know - I mean you have been involved in covering, I've been involved in covering, in Paris, in Brussels, I mean what happened recently in the United States, in Orlando. I mean, how nervous are people in that country?

NELSON: Well, I have never known Germans to be quite a jittery as I've seen them, at least in modern history, shall we say (laughter). Certainly, they're very nervous about what's been happening in Brussels and Paris. There was an - there were arrests earlier this month of three people in Germany, one person in France, who were apparently planning an attack in Dusseldorf, you know, a very popular city down in the downtown. That's where they were planning to let loose with guns and the like, although none of those weapons were found.

So people here are very nervous, although it certainly hasn't stopped Germans from going out to public viewing places to watch the soccer championship that's going on right now. But there's no doubt that people here get very jittery, and even though the motives of this gunman in the theater are not known yet - and it's - you might be surprised that on a day like the middle of the week here that you would have people in the theater, but it is very hot here today and air conditioning is not very common. And so I'm sure many people, if they could get away, went to the theater.

GREENE: Middle of the afternoon. If you can find a cool place, I mean, why not go see a movie?

NELSON: Exactly. So - but people are very nervous, and there's no doubt that this will foster even more reaction against the asylum-seekers, who of course came here in very large numbers last year, more than 1.1 million. And there's a lot of concern about all these people coming in that terrorists might be slipping in with them.

GREENE: What are gun laws like in Germany? I mean, that's a question that always comes up when there's an incident involving a gun the United States.

NELSON: Well, certainly it's a country that has a lot more gun ownership than you think, even though the gun laws are very strict here. I've seen numbers as high as this being the fourth - nation with the fourth highest number of guns that are owned. But they in fact have very strict laws. There's a very strict registry here which the interior ministries in the various states would like to see made even tougher so that guns can be tracked through the life of ownerships. So not just registering who owns it, but who owned it before and who owned it before that and when it was created. And so that's something that's being debated now, and I'm sure will be debated even more after what happened today.

GREENE: OK. That's NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson in Berlin.

Soraya, thanks a lot.

NELSON: You're welcome, David. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Special correspondent Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson is based in Berlin. Her reports can be heard on NPR's award-winning programs, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered, and read at NPR.org. From 2012 until 2018 Nelson was NPR's bureau chief in Berlin. She won the ICFJ 2017 Excellence in International Reporting Award for her work in Central and Eastern Europe, North Africa, the Middle East and Afghanistan.
David Greene is an award-winning journalist and New York Times best-selling author. He is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, the most listened-to radio news program in the United States, and also of NPR's popular morning news podcast, Up First.
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