Driver detained after car rams into crowd at German Carnival parade

25.02.2020

A car rammed into crowds at a German Carnival parade in the town of Volkmarsen on Monday leaving 30 people injured, about a third of them children.
Two people have been detained, including the suspected driver of the vehicle.

Police said the car was deliberately steered into the parade by a local man on Rosenmontag, or Rose Monday, the height of the Carnival season. Police are investigating the incident as a case of  attempted homicide.

Seven of the injured were in serious condition, Frankfurt police chief Gerhard Bereswill said.

District administrator and Carnival spectator Reinhard Kubat said that, upon hearing sirens, he ran towards the scene, passing crying people on the way.

"There were children lying all over the street," he told journalists.

Pubs in Volkmarsen that would normally have been full of revellers and music fell silent after the vehicular assault.

The mayor of Volkmarsen, Hartmut Linnekugel, said he was "deeply shocked" by the incident.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Foreign Minister Heiko Maas both said their thoughts were with the injured. "ëI wishû them, their families, and all of those who were at the Rose Monday parade, much strength," Maas said, referring to the Monday before Ash Wednesday.

The arrested perpetrator came from the town itself, investigators in Frankfurt said.

The 29-year-old was not known to the authorities as an extremist, security sources told journalists. Hesse's Interior Ministry said he was not yet fit for questioning.

The newspaper Bild quoted a witness as saying that the driver had been surrounded by angry people with raised fists and that he had to be protected by police.

The man had driven at high speed into the parade, Hesse's Interior Ministry said. Local newspapers reported witnesses as saying that the driver had gone around a barrier and sped into the crowd.

The second person who was detained had apparently filmed the incident from behind the car, security sources told journalists. It was not clear whether the man was filming the attack as an onlooker or was actually involved more directly in the incident.

Police in the state of Hesse appealed to those who had taken photographs and videos in Volkmarsen not to circulate them and to hold back from speculation.

Police said their investigations into the motive were proceeding in "all directions."

Volkmarsen is a small town of around 6,800 residents that lies around 30 kilometres from Kassel, in west-central Germany.

The incident in Volkmarsen marks a second tragedy for Germans around the festival season.

The car-ramming comes just days after shootings in another town in Hesse, Hanau, that claimed the lives of 10 victims.

Carnival floats across Germany this year referenced the Hanau shootings. In the Carnival bastion of Cologne, for example, a float showing the city's famous cathedral with hanging spires and tears proclaimed: "Our heart is with Hanau."

Carnival is celebrated predominantly in Catholic communities across Germany, with a series of parades and parties in the days leading up to Ash Wednesday.

In Cologne, 12,000 participants and 300 horses took part in the procession, armed with 300 tons of sweets to throw out to the crowds.

In Mainz, around 9,500 participants were in the seven-kilometre-long parade, including more than 2,100 musicians.

No more Carnival parades were allowed on Monday in Hesse for safety reasons, with police presence strengthened across the state.

"It is simply a terrible, a horrible act, carried out on people who simply and happily wanted to celebrate Carnival," said Hesse's Interior Minister Peter Beuth on Monday evening.    (dpa)