Shooting at German Mercedes plant kills two; production halted

Shooting at German Mercedes plant kills two; production halted

By Christina Amann and Ilona Wissenbach

BERLIN (Reuters) -A shooting at a Mercedes-Benz plant in the city of Sindelfingen in southwestern Germany left two men dead on Thursday, mounting pressure on Berlin to tighten the country's already-strict gun laws.

Police arrested the suspect, a 53-year-old man, who opened fire on the victims before security workers at the site, some 17 km (10.6 miles) southwest of Stuttgart, held him down and handed him over to authorities, police and the local prosecutor's office said in a statement.

The victims, both 44, died of their injuries, they said.

Production at one of the company's factory halls in Sindelfingen was suspended until the end of the week, a Mercedes-Benz spokesperson said.

"Otherwise, operations in the plant continue on schedule," the spokesperson said of Sindelfingen, where the company's flagship S-Class luxury sedan is produced.

The gunman and the two victims belonged to an external services provider, Mercedes said, without providing further details on their roles.

The incident was the latest of a number of mass shootings in Germany in recent years, many of which had a connection with extremism. Investigators have yet to establish a motive for Thursday's shooting.

The German government had vowed to tighten its gun laws further after a gunman opened fire on people gathered in a Jehovah's Witnesses hall in Hamburg in March, killing six.

Interior Minister Nancy Faeser had said after that attack that the government would revisit its arms laws. The Social Democrats, her party and that of Chancellor Olaf Scholz, have been pushing for tougher restrictions, and Germany's police union also called for a swift legislative response to restrict the number of guns available.

"We are deeply shocked and saddened by the tragic news," Mercedes said in a statement, adding there was no longer any danger to the local population or workers at the plant.

The plant - with a workforce of 35,000 - was evacuated following the shooting, which took place after the suspect entered the site at 7:45 a.m. (0545 GMT), police and the Stuttgart prosecutor said.

Germany outlawed certain large magazines in 2020 and conducts five-yearly checks on gun owners to ascertain whether their possession of a weapon is justified.

According to government data, there are over 940,000 registered private gun owners in Germany, which has a population of 84 million people.

(Reporting by Christina Amann, Rachel More, Ilona Wissenbach and Miranda Murray; writing by Matthias Williams and Rachel More; editing by Friederike Heine and Bernadette Baum)