BERLIN — A shooting near a synagogue in the eastern German city of Halle left at least two people dead Wednesday, and one suspect was taken into custody, local authorities said.
Footage aired by MDR, the regional public broadcaster, showed a shooter, dressed in green combat gear and a helmet, firing down a street from behind a car with what appeared to be a shotgun and pausing to reload after each shot.
One eyewitness, speaking to local reporters, also described explosions, and several German news outlets reported that the attacker tossed a grenade into the synagogue’s cemetery.
A police spokeswoman could not confirm the use of explosives or that the synagogue in Halle, a city of 240,000 people in eastern Germany, was the direct target of the assault.
The attack came on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year in Judaism and a day of repentance and atonement marked by fasting.
It was not immediately clear whether other suspects remained at large.
Police spokeswoman Ulrike Diener initially said that multiple suspects were believed to have fled the scene, adding that there were also reports of injuries.
Germany’s federal prosecutor took over the investigation in a move a spokeswoman said “means that one can assume that this case is of relevance to the security of Germany.”
“Whether or not this case had an anti-Semitic motive still has to be determined,” Diener said. “We do not exclude any possibility.”
Shots were also fired in the town of Landsberg, about 10 miles east of Halle, according to German media reports citing police.
Authorities urged those in the area to stay in their homes or office buildings, as all public transport was halted. Drago Bock, a spokesman for the city, said Halle had been on a state of “high alert” since the incident began at around 12:45 p.m.
“All emergency services have been deployed,” he said.
In the neighboring federal state of Saxony, authorities sent additional police units to protect synagogues, a spokesman confirmed.
Anti-Semitic hate crimes have risen significantly in recent years in Germany and other European countries.
There have been about 1,500 anti-Semitic verbal and violent attacks annually in recent years, but researchers say the actual figures are higher. One recent survey found that about 70 percent of anti-Semitic incidents go unreported, according to researchers at the Technical University of Berlin.
Earlier this year, an anti-Semitism representative for the German government sparked controversy when he said that it might not be safe for Jews in Germany to wear traditional kippah skullcaps in public.
Morris reported from Warsaw.