A former member of Jehovah’s Witnesses shot dead six people in a hall belonging to the congregation in the German city of Hamburg before killing himself after police arrived, authorities said Friday.

Police said an unborn child also died, without clarifying whether the child’s mother was among the dead. Eight people were injured, four of them seriously.

There were no immediate signs of a possible motive for Thursday night’s attack, which shocked Germany’s second-largest city, but prosecutors said there was no evidence of a terrorist link. Chancellor Olaf Scholz, a former mayor of Hamburg, described it as “a brutal act of violence”.

Hamburg’s top security official said officers who arrived just minutes after receiving the first emergency call at 21.04. A special operations unit that was nearby reached the scene at 9.09 and was able to separate the gunman from the congregation, Hamburg’s interior minister. said Andy Grote.

“We can assume that they saved many people’s lives in this way,” he told reporters during a news conference. Grote called the shooting “the worst crime our city has experienced recently.”

Officials said the gunman was a 35-year-old German national identified only as Philipp F., in line with German privacy rules. He fired more than 100 rounds during the attack.

Hamburg police chief Ralf Martin Meyer said the man had a gun license and legally owned a semi-automatic pistol. He said the suspected shooter was previously investigated after authorities received a tip that he might not be fit to carry a firearm, but that he had not broken the rules.

The police did not use their own firearms, says a police spokesman.

The head of Germany’s GdP police union in Hamburg, Horst Niens, said he was convinced the quick arrival of a special operations unit “distracted the perpetrator and may have prevented further victims.”

Germany’s gun laws are more restrictive than those in the United States, but permissive compared to some European neighbors, and shootings are not uncommon.

Last year an 18-year-old man opened fire in a packed lecture at Heidelberg University, killing one person and injuring three others before killing himself. In January 2020, a man shot dead six people including his parents and injured two others in southwest Germany, while a month later a shooter who posted a racist rant online killed nine people near Frankfurt.

In the latest shooting involving a place of worship, a right-wing extremist tried to force his way into one the synagogue in Halle on Yom KippurJudaism’s holiest day, in October 2019. After failing to gain entry, he shot dead two people nearby.

The German government last year announced plans to crack down on gun ownership by suspected extremists and tighten background checks. Currently, anyone who wants to acquire a firearm must demonstrate that they are fit to do so, including by proving that they need a weapon. The reasons could be being in a sport shooting club or being a hunter.

Asked about a possible political response to the shooting, a spokesman for Germany’s interior ministry, Maximilian Kall, said it was necessary to wait for the results of the investigations before drawing any conclusions.

On Friday morning, forensic investigators in white protective suits could be seen outside the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses, a checkered three-story building next to a car repair shop, a few kilometers from downtown Hamburg. As a light snow fell, officers placed yellow cones on the ground and windowsills to mark evidence.

David Semonian, a US-based spokesman for the Jehovah’s Witnessessaid in an email early Friday that members “worldwide mourn the victims of this traumatic event.”

“The congregation’s elders in the immediate area are providing pastoral care to those affected by the incident,” he wrote.

Police spokesman Holger Vehren said police were alerted to the shooting on Thursday night and were quickly on the scene.

He said officers found people with apparent gunshot wounds on the ground floor and then heard a gunshot from an upper floor, where they found a fatally wounded person who may have been the shooter. They did not fire their weapons.

Student Laura Bauch, who lives nearby, said there were about four periods of gunfire, German news agency dpa reported. “There were always multiple shots during those periods,” she said.

Bauch said she looked out her window and saw a person running from the ground floor to the second floor of the Jehovah’s Witnesses hall.

Gregor Miebach, who lives within sight of the building, heard gunshots and filmed a figure entering the building through a window. In his pictures, shots are then heard from inside. The figure later apparently emerges from the hall, is seen in the courtyard, and then fires more shots through a first-floor window before the lights in the room go out.

Miebach told the German television news agency NonstopNews that he heard at least 25 shots. After police arrived, a final shot followed, he said.

His mother, Dorte Miebach, said she was shocked by the shooting. “It’s really 50 meters (yards) from our house and a lot of people died,” she said. “This is still incomprehensible. We still haven’t really come to terms with it.

Jehovah’s Witnesses are part of an international church, founded in the United States in the 19th century and headquartered in Warwick, New York. It claims a worldwide membership of around 8.7 million, with around 170,000 in Germany.

The members are known for their evangelistic efforts which include knocking on doors and handing out literature in public squares. Denomination practices include a refusal to bear arms, receive blood transfusions, salute a national flag, or participate in secular government.

CORRECTION: This story has been updated to correct the last name of Gregor Miebach.