berlin shooting.jpg
Police officers standing next to a fire department vehicle outside the cinema in which an armed man had barricaded himself in Viernheim, Germany, 23 June 2016.
Photograph: EPA/BORIS ROESSLER

A masked man who shot up a cinema in Germany and took hostages was killed by police, and security sources told dpa on Thursday that he was likely a lone perpetrator and not a terrorist.

The hostages held by the gunman were released unharmed, a police spokeswoman said.

It is unclear how many hostages were taken after the man barricaded himself inside the cinema, which is located in Viernheim, an industrial town of just over 33,000 in the south-western state of Hesse.

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

Local media reported that between 20 and 50 people had suffered injuries. 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.

Local media reported that the man's rifle had been loaded with blank cartridges. Beuth said it was currently unclear whether the rifle had contained live cartridges.

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

The complex was cordoned off and a special police commando was present after being transported to the scene by helicopter, police said.

There have been a number of mass shootings in Germany over the past decade, though gun control in the country is stringent.

In 2013, a 29-year-old unemployed teacher killed five girls and injured more than 20 people at a school in the city of Bremen before being subdued by staff.

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