Four customs agents killed in shootings on Polish, Swiss borders

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — Fatal shootings on two German borders Tuesday shocked a government intent on securing its frontiers against illegal immigrants and contraband from southern and eastern Europe.
The killings of four customs agents in unrelated attacks on the Polish and Swiss borders were — in the words of the Finance Ministry — “unprecedented” in postwar Germany.
Germany is a party to agreements to loosen border checks among western European nations, but it has beefed-up security against illegal immigrants — primarily Kurds.
Responding to similar concerns, Poles have tightened their visa requirements to block Eastern refugees and smugglers trying to sneak into the West through Poland.
Despite the renewed attention on border controls, Tuesday’s attacks caught German customs by surprise. Customs agents, though armed, perform routine document and vehicle inspections.
On the border with Switzerland, in the town of Konstanz, an Italian gunman shot his way through the crossing at about 10:30 a.m., killing one German and one Swiss agent before shooting himself.
German authorities said the gunman, who was seriously injured, apparently was a weapons smuggler: A search of his car uncovered explosives, five handguns, three machine guns and ammunition in two boxes with Hebrew script.
The shooting at the Poland-German crossing, at Goerlitz, was more perplexing, with an unclear motive.
The attack started at about 3:30 a.m., when customs officials on the German side stopped a bus carrying 21 passengers en route from Alma Ata, Kazakstan to Frankfurt.
Customs agents started searching the bus. As they removed a grate from a ventilation duct in the back of the vehicle, a man from Kazakstan grabbed one of the agents’ guns.
He began shooting wildly, killing the two German agents. Two passengers also were injured, although it was unclear whether the bullets that struck them were fired by the attacker or the agents.
Breaking a window in the back of the bus, the man fled, cutting himself on the jagged glass. Police arrested him nearby.