MUNICH // The youth who killed nine people in Munich lured his victims to their death with a fake offer of free meals on Facebook.
Ali David Sonboly, 18, who had dual German and Iranian nationality, hacked into a girl’s Facebook account and posted a message saying there would be free meals given out at McDonald’s in the Olympia Shopping Centre to all who turned up on Friday afternoon.
For the social media-addicted teenagers living in the area – a low income, working class area with a high immigrant population – the offer was too tempting. As they arrived at McDonald’s, Sonboly picked them off in what police described as “a shooting rampage”.
Of his nine victims, all but one were under 21. The youngest was just 13. Three were 14, one 17, one 19. The remaining two were 20 and 45. Six were male, and three female. Three of Sonboly’s victims were from Kosovo, three were Turkish and one Greek.
One witness, a Kosovan who gave her name only as Loretta, said her eight-year-old son had seen Sonboly loading his pistol in the men’s bathroom of the fast food restaurant.
For the second time in less than a week, German chancellor Angela Merkel had to address the nation on the subject of a great tragedy.
The country was in “deep and profound mourning” she said. “We share in your grief, we think of you and are suffering with you.”. She spoke after an emergency meeting of Germany’s security council in Berlin and said she could understand why people now wondered if they were safe in public. What made the Munich tragedy even harder to bear, said Ms Merkel, was that it had come hot on the heels of other horrors. The axe and knife attack carried out by a teenage Afghan refugee on a train last Monday meant Munich was the second mass attack on German soil in just five days.
As well as the nine he killed, Sonboly also wounded 27 others. The gunman himself was the tenth death, his body found about a kilometre away from the shopping centre with a single gunshot wound to the head.
Other world leaders, including from the UAE, condemned the attack. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation called the shooting a “heinous, terrorist crime” and offered condolences. Sonboly was born in Munich to Iranian parents. His father is a taxi driver and his mother works in Karstadt, a well-known department store. Though he had been raised a Shiite and flirted with Christianity, he had no religious affiliation. Nor was he political or drawn to militant causes. Police who raided his home, a fifth-floor apartment in Dachauerstrasse, in the suburb of Maxvorstadt, found no material relating to ISIL or any other terrorist group.
However, Sonboly was a disaffected loner with mental health problems, who was under psychiatric care. Thomas Steinkraus-Koch of the Munich state prosecutor’s office described him as a “classic mass shooter” and said he had been receiving treatment for depression.
The interior minister of the state of Bavaria, Joachim Herrmann, said: “We have a number of indications that the attacker may have been suffering from major psychiatric problems.”
The German interior minister Thomas de Maiziere confirmed that Sonboly had lured his victims through a hacked Facebook account.
Video footage filmed by Thomas Salbey from the balcony of his home shows Sonboly pacing around a rooftop car park. Mr Salbey, a 57-year-old digger driver, had a heated and abusive exchange with Sonboly.
“I was having an after work drink and I heard the shots – first at McDonald’s. Bam bam, that’s what it sounded like,” he said. “Then the people ran out of the shopping centre. It is directly underneath our house. I thought, firstly, it was a Kalashnikov he was shooting with. Then I looked down from my balcony and saw how the man went through the glass entrance. He had reloaded his pistol.
“I threw my beer bottle at him.”
When Mr Salbey called him a foreigner, Sonboly replied, “I am German! I was born here! Because of you I was bullied for seven years. Now I have to buy a gun and shoot you.” According to Mr Salbey, the youth then fired in his direction and walked off. Mr Salbey’s video has gone viral.
The first shots were heard outside McDonald’s at 5.52pm. The police are investigating how Sonboly was able his obtain his weapon, a 9mm Glock automatic pistol and the 300 rounds of ammunition he had on him. Germany has very strict regulations about gun ownership but guns are more easily available over the border in the neighbouring Czech Republic. The gun Sonboly used was illegal, with the serial number removed.
Neighbours in the modern apartment block on Dachauerstrasse where Sonboly lived with his parents and younger brother described him as a quiet and polite loner.
“The lad was very, very nice,” said one. “I really can’t say anything bad about him.”
“I heard he was bullied at school,” said Safete Dalipi, 14, who lives in the same apartment building. “He acted strangely when I saw him yesterday, he just walked down the stairs and said nothing.”
When Sonboly’s parents learnt of his actions they were so distraught that it was several hours before they were in a fit state to be interviewed. They told police their son had possibly converted to Christianity but he was not, in any case, religious.
The attack plunged the sedate, prosperous city, famous for its Oktoberfest beer festival, into chaos for seven hours on Friday night. Authorities shut down the mass transit system and told residents to stay indoors as police launched a manhunt for up to three shooters believed to be at large in the city. Some of the confusion over the number of attackers was down to eyewitnesses mistaking armed plain clothes police offices for additional gunmen. All public transport was stopped and taxi drivers advised not to pick up fares.
Eight hours passed before the police gave the all clear at 2am on Sunday morning. It was just after they found the body of Sonboly – who had committed suicide – in a street, barely a ten-minute walk away from the scene of his rampage. He still had 300 rounds of ammunition in his rucksack.