German police on Friday said eight people were killed, including the gunman, in a shooting at a Jehovah’s Witnesses’ place of worship in the northern city of Hamburg on Thursday evening.
The Bild newspaper reported eight people were also wounded in the shooting.
Several of the wounded were seriously hurt, the Jehovah’s Witnesses said.
The police said they were searching for a motive.
The Spiegel magazine reported on Friday that the shooter was believed to be a former member of the community.
The man was aged between 30 and 40 and was not known to the authorities as an extremist, the report said, citing unnamed sources.
A spokesman for the Hamburg police could not confirm the details.
“Bad news from Hamburg”, Chancellor Olaf Scholz wrote on Twitter early on Friday, calling the attack “a brutal act of violence”.
He said his thoughts were with the victims, their families and the security forces, who he said “have been through a difficult deployment” since the shooting at around 9pm.
Interior Minister Nancy Faeser said on Twitter that the authorities were working urgently to investigate the crime.
“We assume that there is one perpetrator,” the police said late on Thursday. “Investigations into the motives behind the crime are continuing.”
Germany has some of the most stringent rules around gun control in Europe.
The Interior Minister said late last year the government planned to tighten gun laws after a suspected plot by a far-right group to violently overthrow the state.
The Jehovah’s Witnesses said in a statement on their website that the religious community was “deeply affected by the horrific attack on its members of the faith in a Kingdom Hall in Hamburg after a service”.
The group expressed sympathy for the victims, families “and the traumatised eyewitnesses”.
Ministers were “doing their best to support them in this difficult hour. We pray for all those affected and wish them the power of God of all comfort”.
The police have established an Internet portal for people to upload photos and videos “of the crime or relevant events”
Soon after the violence began, residents in the Alsterdorf district received warnings on their mobile phones of a “life-threatening situation” and the area was sealed off, the DPA news agency reported.
Television footage showed dozens of police cars, as well as fire engines, blocking off streets and some people, wrapped in blankets, being led by emergency service workers into a bus.
“We heard shots,” one unidentified witness told reporters. “There were 12 continuous shots,” he said. “Then we saw how people were taken away in black bags.”
The police arrived at the scene to find several people seriously wounded and some dead.
“Then they heard a shot from above, they went upstairs and found one further person,” said a police spokesman.