BERLIN - A masked man was shot dead Thursday after entering a movie theater in southwestern Germanywith what appeared to be a rifle and taking several hostages, authorities said. No one else was hurt.

The armed man, whose identity and motives were unclear, entered the Kinopolis movie theater in the town of Viernheim in the early afternoon and apparently fired a gun.

The man held several people, police spokeswoman Christiane Kobus said, but she didn't have a precise number.

Officers "successively entered the cinema and were able to locate the man and the people he was holding," Kobus told The Associated Press. "There was a threat situation and the man was then shot dead by a colleague."

Police said that the deployment lasted about three hours. There were no other injuries, Kobus said.

She added that she had no information on the assailant's identity and motives.

Another police spokesman, Bernd Hochstaedter, said that "there are no indications at present of an Islamist background."

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Hesse state's interior minister, Peter Beuth, said it wasn't clear whether the weapon was functional, and police said they were still checking that. Beuth told the regional legislature in Wiesbaden that the man was masked and that apparently four shots were fired.

Beuth said the man had given a confused impression, news agency dpa reported.

Cinema employee Guri Blakaj, who was working the till at the time, said he saw an armed man at the popcorn counter and at first thought he was a customer who had come in a costume — "but then we quickly realized it was something more serious, and we lay down on the ground."

Blakaj told n-tv television that the man told him to close the doors while holding the weapon to his head, then ordered him to go to his office and stay there. He said the man shot at a colleague but didn't hit him.

"He seemed very confused, and was relatively young," Blakaj said. He said he had asked the assailant whether he wanted money, and the man said he didn't. Blakaj and colleagues stayed in an office until police arrived.

Nina Reininger, a prosecutor in nearby Darmstadt, said her office was investigating but she has no information so far on the attacker's identity.

Prosecutors would not comment on a report in the Bild daily, which identified no sources, that investigators found an explosive belt and a hand grenade next to the assailant's body, and that explosives experts were examining the objects.

The Kinopolis, a multiplex theater, is located in a shopping mall in Viernheim, which is near the city of Mannheim. The incident happened on a hot summer afternoon and the cinema appears to have been relatively empty at the time.