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Swiss mourn victims of Zug massacre

More than a thousand people gathered for the memorial service at Zug's St Michael's church Keystone

Mourners across Switzerland gathered at churches on Monday to remember the victims of last Thursday's shooting in the regional parliament in Zug. A minute's silence was held throughout the country, and Pope John Paul II sent a message to Zug, comforting the mourners.

This content was published on October 1, 2001 - 23:09

Family members, government representatives and others signed books of condolence, and laid flowers to show their grief following the massacre, in which a man identified as Friedrich Leibacher opened fire during a session of the regional assembly, killing 14 people before turning the gun on himself.

Church services were held throughout the country on Monday. The memorial service in Zug was held at St Michael's church, broadcast by radio and television.

More than 3,000 people crowded into the church or listened to the ceremony outside.

The Swiss president, Moritz Leuenberger, and members of the cabinet travelled from Bern to attend the service, during which 14 candles were lit in memory of the victims. At noon church bells rang throughout the country.

"We are still bewildered and heavy-hearted," said Kurt Koch, the Roman Catholic Bishop who participated in the service. He said a 15th candle, reserved for Leibacher, would remain unlit for the time being.

Stefan Kristen, a Swiss journalist in Zug, described the service as "appropriate and touching".

"People felt a great deal of solidarity by standing together, a feeling expressed by the priest and other speakers," Kristen told swissinfo.

Turning to religion

Christoph Stucki, a pastor of the reformed church in Zug, said the number of people coming who attended church on Sunday was much larger than normal.

"There were many people who normally don't go to church but they were there. I had the impression that they were waiting for words to help them understand this tragedy," he told swissinfo.

On Saturday evening, 4,000 mourners carrying candles and torches gathered in front of the parliament building, where the shooting took place.

Concerning security, Stucki thinks that even though people now feel less secure, the citizens of Zug did understand very quickly that "the man who was responsible for these killings was mentally very sick".

Thirteen still in hospital

According to Urs Huerlimann of the Zug cantonal police, 13 of the 15 people injured in the massacre remain in hospital, one of them in critical condition.

Police said the 57-year-old Leibacher, who is from Zurich, had planned his attack meticulously before he walked into the parliament building.

A preliminary report from the autopsy conducted on Leibacher shows that he committed suicide, police said on Monday.

In a statement, the police also said a tape recording of Thursday's government meeting indicated that Leibacher was dead by the time officers arrived at the chamber six minutes after the attack.

swissinfo with agencies

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