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Police Say Zurich Mosque Shooter Not Linked To Radical Islam

Ambulance and police cars outside an Islamic center in central Zurich on Monday after three people were injured by gunfire. Police say the gunman later killed himself.
Michael Buholzer
AFP/Getty Images
Ambulance and police cars outside an Islamic center in central Zurich on Monday after three people were injured by gunfire. Police say the gunman later killed himself.

Swiss police say a man who shot and wounded three worshippers in a Zurich mosque Monday has no apparent links to radical Islam and appears to have killed himself after the attack.

In a news conference Tuesday afternoon, Zurich cantonal police confirmed that a body found under a nearby bridge was the mosque shooter. A pistol was lying nearby.

Police say it appears the 22-year-old Swiss man of Ghanaian origin took his own life shortly after storming into the Somali-Islamic center near Zurich's main train station on Monday and opening fire on people praying.

Three men, ages 30, 35 and 56, were injured — two of them seriously.

Police say the man, whose name was not released, is also most likely the murderer of a man with South American roots whose body was found in a Zurich playground Sunday morning. The mosque attacker's DNA was found at the playground crime scene. He also seemed to have been acquainted with the playground victim.

The attack was a rare case of gun violence in Switzerland and investigators are still puzzling over a motive that set off the chain of events.

"He is Swiss and we don't know anything about the motives," said Christiane Lentjes Meili, head of criminal investigations for the Zurich cantonal police.

With the Berlin Christmas market attack claimed by ISIS, terrorism is the first thought in everyone's mind. But Swiss police say there is no apparent link to radical Islam.

The man had a juvenile record for assault and bike theft.

Lentjes Meili said there are also indications he took an interest in occult sciences. She said it was not clear whether he was mentally ill.

Like some other European countries, largely Christian Switzerland has also been wrestling with the role of Islam as its Muslim population grows. Seven years ago Swiss voters approved a nationwide referendum banning the building of new minarets.

Worshippers at the mosque, mostly from Somalia, Eritrea and North Africa, were stunned by the intrusion and the shooting. Some told local media they were anxious to know whether they were targeted "or whether it is just coincidence, that brought him to us," said Saad Subaan.

One worshipper told newspaper Neue Zuercher Zeitung that people there were very scared.

"Our children come to the mosque every weekend. But now I wonder if we're still safe here," he said.

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Eleanor Beardsley began reporting from France for NPR in 2004 as a freelance journalist, following all aspects of French society, politics, economics, culture and gastronomy. Since then, she has steadily worked her way to becoming an integral part of the NPR Europe reporting team.
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