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Page last updated at 22:36 GMT, Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Germany stunned by shooting spree

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Scene of the shooting spree in Germany

Germany is in shock after a heavily armed 17-year-old opened fire on pupils and teachers at his former school in a killing spree in which 15 people died.

The youth fled the school in Winnenden, south-west Germany, but shot himself dead after being cornered by police.

Chancellor Angela Merkel called the incident "unimaginable" and said it was a day of mourning for the whole nation.

Hundreds of people joined an emotional service at a Winnenden church to remember the victims.

German schools have suffered several attacks in recent years, but Wednesday's was the most deadly since 2002.

The teenager, named as Tim Kretschmer, entered the Albertville secondary school, north of Stuttgart, at about 0930 (0830 GMT) dressed in black combat gear.

Baden-Wuerttemberg Interior Minister Heribert Rech said he then opened fire on a class of 14- and 15-year-olds, aiming at their heads.

TIM KRETSCHMER
Tim Kretschmer pictured in 2004
Left Albertville school last year after passing exams (pictured above in 2004)
Officials said he was an ordinary pupil who had received good reports from school
German media reported he had begun an apprenticeship
Lived in the village of Leutenbach
A keen table-tennis player, who aspired to become professional

Eight girls and one boy were killed, along with three teachers. Seven other children suffered minor injuries.

Terrified pupils leapt from the school windows to escape.

A student called Celina told the BBC how the gunman had come into her classroom and "just shot everywhere".

"I threw myself on the floor and took my friends with me, and then I went to a corner and put a table in front of me, and he came again a second time and shot again," she said.

"We were in panic and in shock."

Another pupil, Eileen Toraman, said one of her friends had been killed while another had broken her leg jumping from a third-floor window.

"I don't understand why this happened. I have no idea what is supposed to happen now."

Despite the presence of dozens of police officers, the gunman escaped from the school, killing a passer-by as he fled.

'Appalling crime'

He then hijacked a car, taking its driver hostage, and reached the town of Wendlingen, about 40km (25 miles) away from the school.

The police believe he arrived in Wendlingen by chance, after the car's driver lost control on a sharp bend and came to a standstill.

The teenager fled into an industrial estate, where he shot and killed two men at a car showroom.

GERMAN SCHOOL ATTACKS
2006: A former pupil injures 11 students at a school in western town of Emsdetten before turning the gun on himself.
2002: A former pupil kills 17 people in his school in the eastern city of Erfurt, then kills himself.

In a press briefing, Mr Rech said officers arrived at the showroom and traded gunfire with the teenager, hitting him in the leg.

"He fell down, but he got up and managed to load his gun. A little later he was found dead," said Mr Rech.

He had fled from officers into a dead-end street, where police found him apparently with a gun-shot wound in the head.

Local media reported that police had raided the suspect's house and recovered 16 weapons.

The teenager's father, thought to be a prominent businessman in the area, was reported to be a member of a local shooting club.

Eckehard Weiss, who coached Tim Kretschmer at table-tennis, told the BBC that he had been a relatively normal boy.

Mr Weiss said he had wanted to be a professional table-tennis player and had even played a match last weekend.

In a brief statement, Mrs Merkel described the shootings as an "appalling crime".

"It is unimaginable that in just seconds, pupils and teachers were killed. This is a day of mourning for the whole of Germany," she said.

Germany suffered its worst-ever school-shooting in 2002 when a former pupil at a school in the eastern city of Erfurt killed 14 teachers, two pupils and a police officer.

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