Man drives car into group of migrants in Germany in suspected xenophobic attack
A man drove into a crowd of pedestrians celebrating the New Year in the west German town of Bottrop on Tuesday in an apparent xenophobic attack.
The driver targetted a group of Syrian and Afghan migrants in the attack shortly after midnight. Police are investigating whether he has any far-Right links.
One woman was in critical condition following the attack, while three others received serious injuries. The victims have not been named but are believed to include Syrians and Afghans.
The driver escaped the scene of the attack and fled to the nearby city of Essen, where he was captured by police. He has not been named but is understood to be a 50-year-old German citizen and resident of Essen.
When he was arrested he made several xenophobic remarks, and under questioning made it clear he had deliberately targeted foreigners, according to German authorities.
The driver had a "clear intention to kill foreigners" and the authorities are taking the case "very seriously", Herbert Reul, the regional interior minister for North Rhine-Westphalia told a press conference.
“The investigating authorities are currently working on the basis this was a deliberate attack, which may been motivated by xenophobia,” police and prosecutors said in a joint statement. They said there was “initial evidence of mental illness”.
The attack took place shortly after midnight as people were out celebrating the New Year on the streets of Bottrop. The driver first tried to hit a lone pedestrian but he was able to escape.
The driver then ploughed his silver Mercedes into a large group of people, among whom were several Syrian and Afghan migrants, before fleeing to Essen.
The driver was not previously known to police for political or criminal activity.
The incident comes after a German man drove his van into a crowd of people in the nearby city of Münster in April, killing two and injuring 30. The driver in the Münster attack had sought help for mental illness in the weeks leading up to the incident, and subsequently killed himself.