'Doner Kebab Killer' claims ninth victim

GERMAN police are hunting for a multiple murderer who has been nicknamed the "Doner Kebab Killer" after he claimed his ninth victim in six years.

A specially established police unit called the Halfmoon Squad say all the victims, save one, were Turks, all were small businessmen and all were killed without mercy in gangland-style executions.

Last week, after a lull of several months, the Doner Kebab Killer - so called because three of his victims owned or had interests in fast-food restaurants - executed two more people at point-blank range using the same Czech-made pistol.

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The Turkish owner of an internet cafe became his ninth victim last Thursday. Aged 21, he was shot in the head at his premises in Kassel. Two days previously a 39-year-old Turk was murdered at his cigarette kiosk in the industrial city of Dortmund. Forensic experts have matched the weapon - a Czech-made 7.65mm Ceska 83 pistol - with all the other killings.

Police are baffled by the murders, which began in September 2000 and have targeted the owners of small businesses in six cities, including Hamburg in the north and Munich in the south.

Nothing was stolen and the victims seemed to have offered no resistance.

They appear to have been chosen at random, prosecutor Heiko Artkaemper said last week. The only thing they had in common was that they were foreign and operated small businesses. Police said there was nothing to suggest a political motive, blackmail or drugs involvement.

The Turkish government has been exerting intense political pressure on Germany to increase manpower on the Halfmoon Squad - named after the design on the Turkish flag.

A reward of 22,000 is on the head of the killer and the Halfmoon Squad is being boosted from 40 to 65 officers this week.

Various theories abound about why the killer is targeting foreigners, most of them to do with racism against the three million Turks in Germany where unemployment is high.

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