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Mourners in front of the Albertville school in Winnenden, southern Germany, where a gunman killed nine students and three teachers the day before.
Michael Probst STF
Mourners in front of the Albertville school in Winnenden, southern Germany, where a gunman killed nine students and three teachers the day before.

German gunman 'warned of attack'

The teenager who killed 15 people in a German school and others nearby gave an internet warning before the shooting spree.

BERLIN // The teenager who killed 15 people in a German school and others nearby gave an internet warning before the shooting spree, officials say. Tim Kretschmer, 17, gave the warning in a chatroom before the killings in Winnenden yesterday. Germany is said to be in a state of shock after Mr Kretschmer shot dead 15 people, including 10 pupils, in a rampage that ended in a shootout with police in which he was killed. The youth was clad in a black combat outfit as he marched into the Albertville secondary school in southern Germany, at 9.30am and opened fire indiscriminately in two classrooms. He killed nine children and three teachers and wounding several others seriously. The three teachers were female. The pupils killed were all aged 14 or 15.

As screaming children fled through the corridors and climbed out of the windows, the youth escaped on foot towards the town centre, killing a passer-by on the way. He then hijacked a car and drove off as police mobilised more than 1,000 officers in a manhunt using helicopters and sniffer dogs. The teenager, Tim Kretschmer, was tracked down 40km away in Wendlingen, where he opened fire again, killing two passers-by on a supermarket forecourt and seriously wounding two police officers before he was shot dead. It was the worst shooting in Germany since the Erfurt school massacre in 2002 in which a former pupil killed 16 people before turning the gun on himself. Such shootings are rare in Germany, where gun laws are tight by comparison with many western countries, and the outbreak of such violence in this prosperous, sedate part of the country stunned the nation.

"It's a day of sorrow for the whole of Germany," Angela Merkel, the chancellor, said: Our thoughts are with the families and relatives. "We're thinking of them and praying for them." The family affairs minister, Ursula von der Leyen, said: "This is shattering. We must ask how we can prevent this, and what motivates people to commit such shootings that keep happening around the world." Previous school shootings in the United States and Europe have been committed by ostracised, lonely youths with access to guns, and often addicted to violent computer games and the internet. There have been two such rampages in Finland since 2007. The motive for yesterday's shooting remains a mystery.

One former classmate said Kretschmer, an only child, had been "deeply frustrated". Teachers said Kretschmer, who had left the school last year after obtaining his secondary school certificate, had been inconspicuous. He had begun a job-training scheme since then. "He evidently had a double identity," said Helmut Rau, the education minister of Baden-Württemberg. Erwin Hetger, the regional police chief, said: "He just walked into a school with a gun and caused this bloodbath. I've never seen anything like it."

Media reports said the teenager's parents had 18 licensed firearms in their home and that one of the weapons was missing. Heribert Rech, the interior minister of the southern state of Baden-Württemberg, said: "Police found a terrible scene when they arrived at the school. Nine pupils lay dead, and three teachers were later also found dead. "This is a very dramatic sequence of events and we're only at the start of our investigation. We now have the sad tally of 16 dead including the attacker. The police were at the scene very quickly and did everything they could."

One pupil at the school told a local radio station, Antenne 1: "We were in the computer room. Suddenly we heard banging sounds and then our teacher went out to have a look and she closed the door. Then we got told by a policeman to go out to the swimming pool." More than 1,000 pupils were led to safety as anxious parents crowded around the cordoned off school. Police set up a hotline for relatives.

Much of the city was blocked off as armed police and Swat teams scoured Winnenden. "The whole town resembled a fortress," one witness said. "Everyone's horrified by this." The president of the German Federation of Teachers, Josef Kraus, said fears of such shootings had only recently abated after the Erfurt massacre, and were now likely to grow again. He said there was little point trying to boost security by placing armed guards in schools and installing surveillance cameras. "You can turn a school into a high security fortress," Mr Kraus said. "But if someone is determined to go on the rampage he can simply target a school bus instead."

Erfurt offered to send a team of psychologists who had helped pupils after the 2002 shooting there. dcrossland@thenational.ae *With agencies.

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