Gunman shot dead after opening fire at a cinema

A MASKED gunman has been shot dead after opening fire at a cinema in Germany and taking a number of hostages.

Police said there were no serious injuries after the incident at the Kinopolis complex, in the town of Viernheim.

An armed attacker wearing a mask burst in shortly before 3pm local time (2pm BST), with witnesses hearing several shots.

A police spokesperson said he then took several hostages, who were later freed unharmed.

Special police forces stand outside the cinema in which an armed man had barricaded himself in Viernheim, Germany, 23 June 2016. The man was shot dead by police after special police forces (SEK) stormed the cinema in which the man was reported to have shot into the air and taken hostages.
Special police forces stand outside the cinema in which an armed man had barricaded himself in Viernheim, Germany, 23 June 2016. The man was shot dead by police after special police forces (SEK) stormed the cinema in which the man was reported to have shot into the air and taken hostages. EPA - BORIS ROESSLER

The Hessen interior minister, Peter Beuth, told the state parliament that the man was shot dead by police after armed units surrounded the cinema.

"The police had an emergency call at 2.45pm. The caller said there was a masked man...armed with a long gun. It is unclear whether it was a real gun," he added.

"The caller heard four shots and said that the masked man appeared a little mentally unstable. Police special forces were called."

A spokesperson for the interior ministry told The Independent there was no immediate indication of a link to terror groups.

The gunman's identity and his motives were unclear but he was an "acute threat," he added.

Television footage showed a couple fleeing the building as officers carrying guns and wearing helmets and body armour moved in on Thursday afternoon.

At least 25 people reportedly suffered from the effects of teargas during the operation.

A police officer stands outside of a cinema in Viernheim near Mannheim, southern Germany, Thursday, June 23, 2016. A gunman was shot by police after he took hostages in the complex.
A police officer stands outside of a cinema in Viernheim near Mannheim, southern Germany, Thursday, June 23, 2016. A gunman was shot by police after he took hostages in the complex. Boris Roessler - dpa via AP

Christiane Kobus, a spokesperson for South Hessen Police, said: "Officers entered the cinema and were able to locate the man and the people he was holding.

"There was a threat situation and the man was then shot dead."

Isis has recently threatened Germany, as well as other European nations supporting the US-led coalition bombing its territories in Syria and Iraq, but there was no evidence of a link.

Police officers stand in front of a cinema in Viernheim near Mannheim, southern Germany, Thursday, June 23, 2016. A gunman was shot by police after he took hostages in the complex.
Police officers stand in front of a cinema in Viernheim near Mannheim, southern Germany, Thursday, June 23, 2016. A gunman was shot by police after he took hostages in the complex. Boris Roessler - dpa via AP

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