Several people have been killed in a shooting inside a building used by Jehovah’s Witnesses in the northern German city of Hamburg.

Shots were fired at the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Kingdom Hall in the Gross Borstel district, with police alerted at around 9.15pm on Thursday.

Police say “several people” died and “several” were wounded and taken to hospital.

Spokesperson Holger Vehren said officers heard a shot from an upper floor of the building after they arrived and found a person upstairs who may have been a gunman.

He said police did not have to use their firearms.

In a statement posted on Twitter Hamburg Police said: “We found a lifeless person in a community centre in #GroßBorstel who we believe could be a perpetrator. In order to rule out the involvement of other perpetrators, we carry out checks and search extensively.”

Hamburg Police said the motive for the attack is currently unclear.

Mr Vehren said: “We only know that several people died here; several people are wounded, they were taken to hospitals.”

He said he did not have information on the severity of the injuries suffered by those wounded.

Hamburg Mayor Peter Tschentscher described the news as “shocking” and offered his sympathy to the victims’ relatives.

Police added that a large operation was under way in the next-door Alsterdorf district, in the northern part of the city. The area is a few kilometres north of the downtown area of Hamburg, which is Germany’s second-biggest city.

A number of armed officers were pictured near the scene alongside dozens of police cars.

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