Bloodbath in parliament on killer's 'day of rage'

Gunman had bombarded politicians with wild complaints and lawsuits before killing 15 in a rampage with an assault rifle
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The Independent Online

A decision by members of the Swiss cantonal parliament of Zug to work through their coffee break yesterday so that they could get off early for an afternoon excursion proved fatal for 15 people and left another 14 seriously injured.

A decision by members of the Swiss cantonal parliament of Zug to work through their coffee break yesterday so that they could get off early for an afternoon excursion proved fatal for 15 people and left another 14 seriously injured.

At 10.30am Friedrick Leibacher detonated a bomb outside the parliament chambers. Then he walked in and opened fire with an assault rifle on the 100 or so politicians, officials and newspaper reporters sitting in the parliamentary chambers.

Trudy Fux, a Social Democratic Party MP, said: "I heard an explosion, then I looked up and saw a man with a black vest, wearing a blue uniform with police written on it. He started shooting at us. Someone yelled, 'Down, down'."

Her colleague, Kaeti Hofer, said to her that she thought it might be a training exercise, but then, said Ms Fux, "people started screaming.

"Plaster fell from the ceiling. I heard a shot go through a window. He kept shooting, he kept shooting and shouting, 'Where is Robbie Bissig?'" Robbie Bissig is a member of the executive council for the cantonal parliament.

"Then there was another explosion. I saw flames. I started to scream. I looked at the window and thought maybe I could jump, then realised it was too high up.

"And then I heard one more shot and then it was over.'' Her friend, Ms Hofer, was then shot in the leg.

In the chamber there was blood everywhere. As well as the bloodbath, Mr Leibacher left behind a letter explaining the rampage was "a day of rage against the Zug Mafia". The Mafia in Mr Leibacher's eyes was the entire Zug government and justice system. In a rambling diatribe, Mr Leibacher put forth his belief that all the members of the government were working together against him.

Jean Pierre Prodolliet, a member of the Social Democrats, said: "I heard an explosion. Someone yelled, 'Down, down'. We all fell to the floor. There was smoke everywhere. Something was burning. I hid under my desk and it saved by life."

Vreni Wicky, a member of the Conservative Party, said she crawled under her desk and put her purse over her head. The gunman walked by and shot several times in her direction. Afterwards, a trembling Ms Wicky pulled out a spent shell. "Three of them are in my purse," she said.

Officials said Mr Leibacher had filed seven lawsuits against various members of parliament. Earlier this week all of them had been thrown out by the courts. He had also filed a suit with the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, charging the officials with torture. Mr Bisig, the man on the killer's mind, who survived the attack by diving under his desk, said that Mr Leibacher had bombarded the regional government with letters of complaint and pamphlets demanding his rights.

But all the accusations were rejected because "they were so far from reality," Mr Bisig said.

After Mr Leibacher had fired his last shot, police stormed into the chambers, having been alerted by passers-by, but even that brought fear to the MPs. "They were also wearing vests and police uniforms and that gave us more angst," said Mr Bisig.

Across the street, Andrea Scheibler was pinning up trousers on a dummy in the clothing store where she works. She said: "I saw red flames coming from the middle window and then we heard shots and then 'Dak, dak, dak'. We didn't know what was going on. It all sounded like fireworks. It stopped for a moment and then went on again. Then suddenly a man with his hand all bloody stumbled out the building. Another man came holding a chair as if for protection. Then he simply threw it down and started running."

Sonja Daume, who also works in the shop, was still shaking a few hours after the attack. "It was awful." she said. "You feel paralysed. It's awful just watching it and you don't believe it. Now I feel it."

She added: "First this thing in the States and now this. You have to ask what kind of world we live in."

The trendy fashion store was a favourite spot for MPs and their wives. Ms Daume said: "I'm now thinking of all the wives who were customers of mine and now are widows."

Father Othmar Kaehli was counselling relatives and the MPs at a makeshift meeting place near the parliament building at the Zuger Kantonalbank, which had been taken over by police for the day. Everyone was in shock. "They're crying a lot and they're waiting for news." Father Kaehli said.

He was opening his church last night for a candlelight service but he said for the most part he was angry that the killer had probably used his own Swiss army-issue assault rifle against his own countrymen. It is standard practice in Switzerland to issue weapons to all men when they serve in the army. Army service is obligatory in the country.

Police officials would not confirm that the assault rifle used was Mr Leibacher's own army weapon. But they did say that it was the same kind that was issued to soldiers. Police went on to say that they found an array of weapons in Mr Leibacher's car. They gave no further details.

Zug was in shock as news of the massacre swept the town. Daniella Krucker, 27, was standing outside the parliament building, with tears running down her eyes. Ms Krucker said she ran to the building which sits in an idyllic spot on Lake Zug, as soon as she heard the news.

She knew several people who worked in the parliament and wanted to make sure they were all right. "I'm shocked,'' she said. "I wanted to help but there's nothing I can do."

A woman in black trousers wearing sunglasses went to the police line outside the building, spoke briefly with the policemen and then broke down in tears.

It appeared that few in this town of 27,000 people were left untouched. Even the government building itself was damaged. Two windows had holes bored through them. It looked as if another shot had hit the facade in between them.

Mr Bisig said that among those killed, three were members of the regional government. It leaves the executive body without the required number to govern. He has called on three MPs to step in. "The government will continue to function," he said.

He began a press conference saying: "This is indeed a very, very sad gathering. To my fellow citizens I ask them to please excuse me if my words sound helpless. My thoughts are on the victims of the assault and their relatives and I want to thank the rescue crews for everything they did. I hold great respect for them."

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