World

Police probe background of Germany van attacker

Attacker acted alone, no evidence of links to militancy

MUENSTER, GERMANY The man who drove a camper van into a group of people sitting outside a restaurant in the German city of Muenster on Saturday acted alone and appears to have had mental-health problems, the regional interior minister said yesterday.

Two people were killed in the incident. The driver then shot himself dead.

"We now know it was in all likelihood a lone perpetrator, a German," Interior Minister of North Rhine-Westphalia Herbert Reul said.

"There are lots of indications the person in focus had (psychological) abnormalities. This must be carefully investigated," he said after paying his respects to the victims .

There was no evidence of any link to Islamist militancy and the suspect was not a refugee, Mr Reul added.

Public broadcaster ZDF said the driver, identified as Jens R in media reports, had recently attempted suicide while news channel NTV said he had spoken of a desire to bring as much attention as possible to his death.

ZDF also reported that he had possible links with far-right movements.

News website Spiegel Online reported that police had found an assault weapon at the driver's flat in Muenster.

Police in the university city of 300,000 did not immediately confirm the reports.

'DEEPLY SHAKEN'

Chancellor Angela Merkel said she was "deeply shaken" by the incident and "everything possible will be done to determine what was behind this act and to help the victims".

The presidents of Russia and France, Vladimir Putin and Emmanuel Macron, each sent their condolences.

The attack is the latest in a string across Europe in which vehicles have been used to attack crowds of people in public places.

On Dec 19, 2016, Tunisian asylum-seeker Anis Amri hijacked a truck and murdered its Polish driver before killing another 11 people and wounding dozens more by ploughing the heavy vehicle through the festive market in central Berlin.

He was shot dead by Italian police in Milan four days later while on the run.

In France, Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) claimed a 2016 truck attack in Nice on its July 14 national holiday that killed 86.

And in Spain, the group also claimed a rampage along Barcelona's Las Ramblas boulevard in August 2017 that killed 14 and left more than 100 injured.

Like other European nations, Germany remains a target for terrorist groups, in particular because of its involvement in the coalition fighting ISIS in Iraq and Syria, and its deployment in Afghanistan since 2001.

A court last month sentenced a man to life in prison for killing one and wounding six others with a knife in a Hamburg supermarket out of a "jihadist" motive last July.

ISIS also claimed responsibility for a number of attacks in 2016, including the murder of a teenager in Hamburg, a suicide bombing in the southern city of Ansbach that wounded 15, and an axe attack on a train in Bavaria that left five injured.

- AFP

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