Three hurt in shooting at Muslim prayer hall in Zurich

Swiss media said the suspected assailant had fled the scene

Police secure the area in front of a Muslim prayer hall in Zurich where a gunman reportedly wounded three people on December 19, 2016. Ennio Leanza/Keystone via AP
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ZURICH // Three people were injured when a man burst into a Muslim prayer hall in the Swiss city of Zurich on Monday and started shooting, said police, who have launched a manhunt for the shooter.

A body was found a few hundred metres from the scene, but it was unclear if it was connected to the shooting, which took place inside the city’s Islamic Centre, near the central station.

At around 5.30pm local time, an unknown person entered the Islamic Centre, where several worshippers were gathered, and began shooting, Zurich police said.

He “fired several shots at the worshippers”, they added.

“Three men, aged 30, 35 and 56, were injured, some seriously. The suspect then escaped from the mosque in the direction of Central Station.”

Witnesses described the shooter as a man aged around 30 wearing dark clothes and a dark woollen cap.

“The city and cantonal police immediately launched a major search for the unknown perpetrator,” police said.

Swiss media said the three wounded people were found in the street where the prayer hall is located.

Police have urged witnesses who were in the area around the time of the shooting to come forward.

They did not immediately provide any details about the suspected motive for the shooting.

Around a dozen people were inside the prayer hall at the time of shooting, the ATS news agency reported, citing a number of people on site. It added that a prayer service had been scheduled for 4.45pm.

The worshippers were mainly from North Africa, Somalia and Eritrea, ATS reported.

Police sealed off the area and were scouring the streets for the shooter, carrying lamps and using sniffer dogs.

They blocked of Eisgasse, the street where the Islamic Centre is located, as well as a nearby bridge, where the body was found.

The body was discovered on the river bank, underneath the bridge, and had been draped with a white sheet.

* Agence France-Presse