Thousands of people gathered for vigils across Germany after an attack that came amid mounting concern about far-right extremism.

Two women lay flowers and candles to pay their respects at a makeshift memorial at Marktplatz in Hanau, Germany on February 21, 2020.
Two women lay flowers and candles to pay their respects at a makeshift memorial at Marktplatz in Hanau, Germany on February 21, 2020. (AFP)

Germany's government faced calls to toughen gun ownership laws and step up efforts to track far-right sympathisers after the suspect in one of its worst mass shootings since World War Two was found to have published a racist manifesto.

Thousands gathered in cities across Germany to hold vigils for the victims of a racially motivated terror attack, amid growing calls for authorities to crack down on far-right extremism.

A 43-year-old German man shot dead nine people of immigrant background in the Frankfurt suburb of Hanau on Wednesday before killing his mother and himself. The man, identified as Tobias Rathjen, left a number of rambling texts and videos espousing racist views and claiming to have been under surveillance since birth.

German interior minister Horst Seehofer said on Friday that the police presence would be increased across the country to counter the "very high" security threat from the far-right after the attack

"The security threat from right-wing extremism, anti-semitism and racism is very high," Seehofer said at a press conference in Berlin, also announcing an "increased police presence" at mosques, train stations, airports and borders.

He and justice minister Christine Lambrecht highlighted that Germany has updated its law on firearms licensing in recent weeks and a new bill targeting online hate speech is being considered.

Federal police chief Holger Muench said "around half" of those who carry out attacks with extreme-right motivations were previously unknown to his officers.

Suspects in both the Halle synagogue attack and the Hanau shootings appear to have been radicalised largely online, publishing racist screeds only shortly before their attacks.

"The problem is perpetrators who act almost without any structure behind them, practically with only an internet connection... how can potential perpetrators be identified, that's the big challenge," Muench said.

Such people were "time bombs", Lambrecht said.

The state must do more to combat right-wing extremism, migration, refugees and integration minister Annette Widmann-Mauz said, calling for more government action against anti-Muslim hostility.

“Those who were murdered in Hanau were not foreigners. None of them were. Citizens have died,” Mayor Claus Kaminsky said, according to Bild newspaper. The far-right attacker’s manifesto has the mark of racism and hatred as well as psychopathy. 

“We are infinitely grateful” for the international solidarity shown in this time of mourning.

The attack came amid mounting concern about far-right extremism reflected in earlier attacks and the rise of the anti-migrant party Alternative for Germany, or AfD.

A top official in the centre-left Social Democrats, a junior partner in Chancellor Angela Merkel's governing coalition, accused AfD of providing ideological fodder to people like the Hanau attacker.

Germany's minorities call for action 

German Kurds called for stronger government action against far-right radicalism and racism as they mourned the victims of the gun attack.

"Politicians must ask themselves, 'how did we get here?" Metin Kan, who said he was a close friend of one of the people killed in the rampage, said.

Ayten Kaplan, an occupational therapist from the western city of Essen said words and gestures were not enough.

"We need a national campaign that celebrates Germany's multi-ethnic population and condemns those trying to sow division," she said.

"It is certainly not looking good for minorities –– especially Jews and Muslims –– and it is not going to get better," said Reinhard Schramm, leader of the Jewish community in the eastern state of Thuringia.

"The problem is that people are voting for parties whose leaders are clearly racist, anti-Semitic and right-wing radicals," said Schramm. 

"Of course not all AfD supporters are racist, but the language used by some of its leaders encourages people to translate their racist feelings into violent actions."

AFD has rejected all comments accusing the party of being involved in the latest attack.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies