21 September 2021

German officials fear anti-mask radicalisation after killing

21 September 2021

A young petrol station worker in Germany has been killed after asking a customer to wear a face mask.

A 49-year-old man was arrested in the western town of Idar-Oberstein and is being held on suspicion of murder.

Senior politicians in Germany have warned against the radicalisation of people who oppose pandemic restrictions.

German Green Party co-leader Annalena Baerbock said she was alarmed by radicalisation. (AP Photo/Steffi Loos) (AP)

Authorities said the man told officers he acted “out of anger” after being refused service for not wearing a mask while trying to buy beer.

“He further stated during interrogation that he rejected the measures against the coronavirus,” the Trier police department said in a statement.

A requirement to wear masks in stores is among the measures in place in Germany to stop the spread of the virus.

According to police, the suspect left after the dispute but returned half an hour later wearing a mask and fatally shot the 20-year-old clerk in the head.

The suspect, a German citizen who wasn’t identified by name in line with privacy laws, fled the scene but later turned himself in to police.

The centre-left Green party’s candidate to succeed German Chancellor Angela Merkel voiced dismay at the killing. Germany’s federal election takes place on Sunday.

“I’m shaken by this terrible murder of a young man who merely asked that existing rules be followed,” Annalena Baerbock said in a tweet.

Baerbock also expressed concern about the radicalisation of Germany’s Querdenken movement, which includes people who oppose masks and vaccines, conspiracy theorists and some far-right extremists.

Authorities didn’t immediately say whether the suspect in the killing was associated with the movement, which has come under scrutiny from Germany’s security services following a series of anti-government protests, some of which turned violent.

Prosecutors told Germany’s dpa news agency that the man wasn’t previously known to police and that he wasn’t wasn’t legally entitled to own the firearm found at his house.

Paul Ziemiak, the general secretary of Merkel’s centre-right Christian Democratic Union party, called the young man’s killing “incomprehensible.”

Facebook last week removed almost 150 accounts and pages linked to the Querdenken movement under a new policy focused on groups that spread misinformation or incite violence but which didn’t fit into the platform’s existing categories of bad actors.

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