BERLIN– A convicted far-right murderer has temporarily taken two prison guards hostage in eastern Germany in an attempted escape before being overwhelmed by other guards.
The hostage taker, who was sentenced to life in prison for fatally shooting two people after they attempted to storm a synagogue in the eastern German city of Halle in 2019, took two guards hostage at Berg high-security prison near the eastern German city of Magdeburg on Monday evening.
Within an hour, eight other guards freed their colleagues and overwhelmed the attacker, Stephan Balliet, 30, injured in the incident. The two hostages were not injured.
State security officials in Saxony-Anhalt, where the prison is located, said the prisoner used a “device” to force the two prison guards out of his cell. They declined to describe the object due to the ongoing investigation.
Based on what the prisoner can be heard saying on surveillance footage, officials said they suspect Balliet was trying to escape from prison.
In 2020, while still on trial, Balliet attempted to escape from another prison. He scaled a 3.40-meter-high (11ft-high) fence during a yard drill and spent five minutes looking for ways to get out of the prison complex before guards caught him, said German news agency dpa reported.
After Monday’s incident, Balliet was placed in a special security room where he is under constant surveillance, and he may soon be moved to another high-security prison, said Franziska Wiedinger, Saxony’s justice minister. Anhalt.
Balliet attacked the Halle Synagogue on Yom Kippur, Judaism’s holiest day, in 2019. He was armed with multiple guns and explosives. When he failed to enter the building, he killed a bystander and a man inside a nearby kebab shop.
The attack was one of the most violent and openly anti-Semitic acts in post-war German history. Balliet was sentenced to life in prison in 2020.