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Gunman killed Roma family in flats massacre

A gunman went on the rampage in the Slovakian capital Bratislava yesterday, killing seven people and wounding 15, before committing suicide.

Five of the people killed were members of a Roma family who lived in an apartment where the man began his attack with a machine gun and two pistols, said interior minister Daniel Lipsic.

Police chief Jaroslav Spisiak said the unidentified gunman's motive was not known.

Another man shot and killed outside the building was "probably" also a member of the same family, Mr Lipsic said.

"So far we don't know the motive... so I will not speculate whether it did or did not have a racial motive," he said. "I doubt it, but of course the investigation is ongoing."

The shooting took place at mid-morning in the rundown Devinska Nova Ves neighbourhood on the outskirts of the city, surrounded by fields and industrial areas.

The five Roma who died in the apartment -- four women and a man -- lived in a high-rise building.

Police rushed to the scene as the attacker was leaving the building, and he fired indiscriminately at people in the area, wounding 15, including a policeman and a three-year-old boy who was shot in the ear.

The seventh fatality was a woman who was shot in the area as she walked to the balcony of her apartment when she heard the gunfire, Lipsic said.

Afterward, daily newspaper SME released a photograph of a person it identified as the gunman.

It shows a middle-aged man standing on a sidewalk and pointing a machine gun at an unidentified target overhead.

Weapons

The man appears to have planned the shoot-out because he is wearing a device over his ears to protect his hearing.

The gunman was later identifier as a 48-year-old local who was in legal possession of the weapons he used for the killing spree.

He is reported to have died afterwards from a gunshot to his head.

Daniel Zitnan of Bratislava's Children's Hospital said the three-year-old boy who was shot while riding in a car was only slightly hurt and released after treatment.

One of the 15 wounded was in a critical condition.

Emergency crews blocked off the scene of the attack, which is close to a kindergarten and a supermarket.

hnews@herald.ie