Just before 3 pm on a sunny Thursday afternoon, the 21-year-old cashier at the “Kinopolis” cinema complex in Viernheim, Germany triggered a silent alarm as he was staring down the barrel of what he described as a ‘long gun.’ Before him stood a masked assailant, seemingly confused, but nonetheless commanding him to lockdown the cinema. The young cashier complied and was later put in a separate room from where he claims to have heard the assailant shoot his weapon at the hostages.
A few minutes later, local police units in the area began setting up a perimeter around the cinema complex. At the same time, 45 miles north of Viernheim, the SEK Frankfurt was gearing up and getting ready to board a HELO to intervene at the cinema complex. Despite the fact that the more elite GSG-9 typically handles hostage situations, the close proximity of the local SEK teams (Germany’s equivalent of the American SWAT units) gave them a clear advantage to be tasked to handle the situation.
When the SEK teams made entry into the cinema complex, the police report claims that the officers were faced with a ‘threatening hostage situation’ to which they opened fire and killed the gunman. Despite several reports claiming the SEK units used teargas before making entry, and that a number of the cinema guests suffered from the effects of the gas, the police reports stated that all hostages were completely unharmed during the assault.
After further investigation, it could be established that the hostage-taker was a 19-year-old German citizen, acting alone, with no ties to ISIS or any other radical movement. In addition, he did not actually use a real weapon in the assault on the cinema complex. Instead, the police found that he was carrying some sort of bobby gun and fired blank rounds. Criminal psychologists assume the hostage-taker was potentially provoking a suicide attempt.
There are still a number of unanswered questions about what really happened at the “Kinopolis” Cinema Complex in Viernheim, Germany on Thursday afternoon. However, by now it seems fairly clear that the threat of terrorism has dawned upon security forces across Europe. Regardless of the motive, and whether an aggressor may or may not have ties to radical groups, local SWAT teams are clearly prepared to take deliberate action, ferociously and effectively neutralizing a given threat.