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Jehovah’s Witnesses: Hamburg attack survivors out of danger

March 21, 2023 GMT

BERLIN (AP) — The Jehovah’s Witnesses say all of the survivors of a shooting at one of its halls in Hamburg earlier this month are out of danger.

A 35-year-old German shot dead six people during a service on March 9. Nine people were wounded, including a woman who lost her unborn child. He then killed himself as police arrived.

“We are happy to say that meanwhile all are out of danger of death,” the church in Germany said in a statement late Monday, adding that four people remain hospitalized.

“All feel a strong need to spend time together, be it in person or by videoconference,” it added. “Sharing what they have experienced obviously helps them to process it.”

Some of the survivors are “severely traumatized,” it said. “Their recovery will realistically be a long road.”

The gunman, identified by German authorities only as Philipp F. due to privacy rules, was a former member who left the church two years ago. Investigators have said his departure from the church was “apparently not on good terms.”

“We know that the perpetrator was one of Jehovah’s Witnesses for only about seven months, but voluntarily left our religious community in 2021,” the church said. It declined to comment on the fact that police received an anonymous tip suggesting the gunman was mentally unfit to have a weapon. Officers made an unannounced visit to his home last month but concluded there was no reason to take away his firearm.

It has since emerged that the gunman had a website promoting his consultancy business and a self-published book titled “God, Jesus Christ and Satan.”

German prosecutors said they were investigating whether there was a religious motive for the crime, but that there were no indications he was involved in any network or had far-right views.

The Hamburg congregation that was holding a service when the attack happened currently has about 60 members and is one of 47 in the port city, which is home to almost 4,000 denomination members, according to the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

The church said it was disappointed at some negative reaction to the shooting, but encouraged by the outpouring of sympathy and support by the general public and touched by the care fellow members of the congregation were showing to the survivors.