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Masked man wounds 11 after storming German school

Written by: Staff

EMSDETTEN, Germany, Nov 20 (Reuters) A masked man wearing explosives and brandishing rifles opened fire after storming a school in the western German town of Emsdetten today, wounding at least 11 people before he committed suicide.

Police identified the man as an 18-year old former pupil at the Scholl secondary school where the attack took place. He was known to authorities and due in court tomorrow for weapons violations, they said.

German television broadcast pictures they said came from the man's Web site, showing him standing in a forest in camouflaged military fatigues and brandishing a hi-tech rifle.

Police had blocked the Web site, which they said contained a note warning of his plans, by mid-afternoon.

''Based on the note, he appears to have acted out of general frustration and a feeling his life had lost all meaning,'' state prosecutor Wolfgang Schwer told a news conference.

''Everything suggests he was acting alone and not linked to broader extremist groups.'' The prosecutor said at least 11 people within the school had been wounded by the man. Five of the wounded -- three boys, a girl and a janitor -- received gunshots to the stomach, arms, legs or hands, but none of the injuries were life-threatening.

Sixteen police who stormed the school were being treated for smoke inhalation after the man detonated smoke bombs.

Police blocked off the school in Emsdetten, a town of 35,000 near the Dutch border, to search the grounds. Dozens of students and parents, some of them crying, comforted each other nearby.

EMERGENCY CALL Hans Volkmann, who led the police operation, said local authorities had received an emergency call reporting shots at the school at 0928 hrs and arrived on the scene within minutes.

Commandos entered the building shortly after 1000 hrs and evacuated four children before finding the man dead on the second floor.

Police said it was unclear whether the man, who was found with two rifles and a knife, had died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound or by detonating explosives he was carrying.

Gerd Endemann, a teacher at the school, said he had seen the man crouched behind his car before he stormed in.

''I wondered what he was doing there,'' he said. ''He was a somewhat closed-off student who was very difficult to engage.'' Police said the man's parents were in deep shock and that his father had sought treatment in the intensive care unit of a local hospital after receiving news of the shooting.

In April 2002, Germany suffered its worst school shooting when a gunman killed 17 people, including himself, at a high school in the eastern city of Erfurt.

That shooting reportedly began after a student said he was not going to take a maths test and pulled out a gun.

A hotline was set up to offer counselling for Scholl students and parents. There are 693 pupils at the school, according to its Website, aged roughly between 10 and 15 years of age.

Reuters SP DB2147

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