BERLIN (AP) — A convicted far-right killer temporarily took two prison guards hostage in an attempted prison break in east Germany before being overpowered by other guards.
The hostage-taker, who was sentenced to life in prison for shooting dead two people after attempting to storm a synagogue in the eastern German city of Halle in 2019, took two guards hostage at the Berg maximum-security prison near the eastern Germany city of Magdeburg on Monday night .
In less than an hour, eight other guards freed their colleagues and overpowered the assailant, 30-year-old Stephan Balliet, who was 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 to take him out of his cell. They refused to describe the object due to the ongoing investigation.
Based on what the prisoner can tell from surveillance footage, officers said they believe Balliet was trying to escape from prison.
In 2020, while still on trial, Balliet attempted to escape from another prison. He climbed over a 12-foot fence during a yard exercise and spent five minutes trying to find a way out of the prison complex before guards caught him, German news agency dpa reported.
After Monday’s incident, Balliet was taken to a special security room where he is under constant surveillance and he may soon be transferred to another high-security prison, Saxony-Anhalt Justice Minister Franziska Wiedinger said.
Germany’s top security official has urged the country’s prison operators to review their security measures.
“Of course that worries me,” Interior Minister Nancy Faeser told Welt Fernsehen. “This calls on those responsible for the prisons in Germany to take another close look. Special attention must be paid to someone like the assassin from Halle, who we know already attempted to escape during the trial.”
Balliet attacked the synagogue in Halle in 2019 on Yom Kippur, Judaism’s holiest day. He was armed with multiple firearms and explosives. When he failed to get into the building, he killed a passerby and a man at 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 imprisonment in 2020.