cinema shooting berlin.jpg
Special police forces stand outside the cinema in which an armed man had barricaded himself in Viernheim, Germany, 23 June 2016.
Photograph: EPA/BORIS ROESSLER

A masked, armed assailant killed by police after shooting up a German cinema was likely a lone perpetrator and not a terrorist, security sources told dpa on Thursday.

The hostages held by the gunman have been released unhurt, a police spokeswoman said. It is unclear how many hostages were taken after the man barricaded himself inside the cinema, located in the south-western town of Viernheim, an industrial town of just over 33,000 in the state of Hesse.

There were conflicting reports about the number of people injured during the incident, with police officials saying they could not confirm that anyone except the shooter had been hurt or killed.

Local media reported that between 20 and 50 people had been injured, while mass circulation newspaper Bild said that 25 people had been injured by tear gas used by police as they were storming the building.

Peter Beuth, the interior minister of Hesse, told parliament that special forces had "fought and killed" the man, who had been visibly confused and fired at least four shots inside the cinema with a rifle.

The identity and motive of the shooter have yet to be confirmed.

The cinema complex was cordoned off and a special police commando was on its way to the scene by helicopter, a Frankfurt police spokesman said.

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