German authorities fear anti-mask radicalization after murder
A young gas station worker in Germany was killed after asking a customer to wear a face mask.
A 49-year-old man has been arrested in the western town of Idar-Oberstein and is being held on suspicion of murder.
Senior German politicians have warned against radicalizing those who oppose the pandemic restrictions.
Authorities said the man told officers he acted “out of anger” after being refused service for not wearing a mask while trying to buy beer.
“He further stated during questioning that he rejects the measures against the coronavirus,” the Trier police department said in a statement.
The obligation to wear masks in stores is part of the measures in place in Germany to stop the spread of the virus.
Police say the suspect left after the argument but returned half an hour later wearing a mask and shot the 20-year-old clerk in the head.
The suspect, a German citizen who was not identified by name under privacy laws, fled the scene but then surrendered to the police.
The center-left Greens’ candidate to succeed German Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed his dismay at the assassination. German federal elections take place on Sunday.
“I am shocked by this terrible murder of a young man who simply asked that the existing rules be followed,” Annalena Baerbock said in a tweet.
Baerbock also expressed concern about the radicalization of the German Querdenken movement, which includes people opposed to masks and vaccines, conspiracy theorists and some far-right extremists.
Authorities did not immediately say whether the murder suspect was associated with the movement, which has come under close scrutiny by German security services following a series of anti-government protests, some of which have become violent.
Prosecutors told German news agency dpa that the man was not known to police before and that he was not legally entitled to possess the gun found in his home.
Paul Ziemiak, general secretary of Merkel’s center-right Christian Democratic Union party, called the young man’s murder “incomprehensible”.
Facebook deleted nearly 150 Querdenken-related accounts and pages last week as part of a new policy focused on groups that spread misinformation or incite violence but do not fit into existing categories of bad actors of the platform.