Two killed in Muenster van incident, driver commits suicide

MUENSTER, GERMANY, dpa correspondents (dpa)- Two people were killed and 20 more were injured on Saturday when a man drove a van into a crowd in the western German city of Muenster before committing suicide, authorities said.
In a joint statement, the police and the state prosecutor's office said the victims were a 51-year-old woman and a 65-year-old man.

They also confirmed that the man suspected of driving the van shot himself in the vehicle. State prosecutor Martin Botzenhardt said that the investigation so far led authorities to believe the assailant was "a 48-year-old man from Muenster."
There were no leads as yet on a potential motive. "Investigators are looking at the case from all possible angles," Botzenhardt added.
Earlier, the interior minister of the state of North Rhine Westphalia, Herbert Reul, said that "nothing indicates at the moment that there's an Islamist background," adding that the man was believed to be a German citizen.
According to dpa information, the suspected driver was possibly a mentally unstable lone actor.
The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper's online edition, FAZ.NET, said he had lived locally. Other reports said he was known to police.
About 20 people were injured - including some who were left in life-threatening condition - when the van ran into a group of people sitting in front of a historic tavern near the old city's "Kiepenkerl" statue, one of the symbols of Muenster.
Chancellor Angela Merkel and German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier expressed their condolences to the victims and their families.
There was speculation that two more people had been in the van and had fled the scene. However, the rumour has not been confirmed and must now be looked into, said a police spokesman.
Local authorities requested the public via Twitter to avoid speculating on the cause of the incident.
Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said local and regional police were working at full speed to clarify the matter, adding federal security authorities were in close contact with regional officials.
A search of the suspect's flat turned up a toy machine gun and firecrackers, police and the state prosecutor's office said early Sunday.
The tabloid Bild had earlier reported that investigators had found an AK-47 machine gun on the premises and were checking whether it worked.
Specialists used explosives to blast open the door to the flat for security reasons, according to a joint statement.
Investigators searched the suspect's van and found the weapon with which the perpetrator killed himself as well as an alarm pistol and firecrackers.
A police spokesman had earlier said a "suspicious object" was found in the van and that the area was being sealed off in order to investigate.
Employees at a restaurant near the scene described hearing a loud sound before things started moving fast and they had to leave the restaurant. They did not see the actual incident taking place.
The German government expressed condolences to victims. "Horrible news out of Muenster," wrote spokeswoman Ulrike Demmer on Twitter. Justice Minister Katarina Barley thanked emergency services and said that everything must be done to find out what had led to the incident.
US President Donald Trump condemned the attack and sent "thoughts and prayers" to the families of those killed, according to a statement released by the White House.
"While the German authorities have not yet announced a motive for this cowardly attack on innocent people, we condemn it regardless, and pledge any support from the United States government that Germany may need," the statement read.
Russian President Vladimir Putin sent a telegram to Merkel and Steinmeier with his condolences and also extended good wishes for a speedy recovery to those injured.
The incident happened around the same time as a demonstration planned by Kurds at 3:30 pm (1330 GMT).
Many police officers were already in the city centre to patrol during the protest, a police spokesman said, but there was no information on whether there was any connection between the two events.
Muenster is one of Germany's most important university cities, boasting more than 50,000 students, and features a quaint downtown with numerous bars, restaurants and cultural institutions.

Sunday, April 8th 2018
dpa correspondents (dpa)

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