Several dead after man drives van into restaurant in Germany

MUENSTER, Germany, April 7 (Reuters) - A German man drove a van into a group of people sitting outside a restaurant in the old city center of Muenster in western Germany on Saturday, killing two of them before shooting himself dead, police and state officials said.

The vehicle plowed into people seated at tables outside the Grosser Kiepenkerl eatery, a popular destination for tourists in the pretty university city.

Herbert Reul, interior minister of North Rhine-Westphalia, home to Muenster, told German television the suspect was a German citizen and there was "no indication of an Islamist background."

Police spokesman Andreas Bode earlier said: "At 15:27 (1327 GMT), a vehicle drove into the outside area of the restaurant ... three people were killed, 20 injured, and six of those seriously injured,"

"The perpetrator killed himself in the vehicle," Bode added.

Reul said the three dead included the perpetrator.

RELATED: Fatalities reported after van crashes into restaurant in Germany

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Fatalities reported after van crashes into restaurant in Germany
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Fatalities reported after van crashes into restaurant in Germany
Police vans stand in downtown Muenster, Germany, on Saturday.
First responders are seen after several people were killed and injured when a car ploughed into pedestrians in Muenster, western Germany on April 7, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / dpa / Friso Gentsch / Germany OUT (Photo credit should read FRISO GENTSCH/AFP/Getty Images)
Special Police officers are seen at the scene when several people were killed and injured when a car ploughed into pedestrians in Muenster, western Germany on April 7, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / dpa / Bernd Thissen / Germany OUT (Photo credit should read BERND THISSEN/AFP/Getty Images)
Police and first responders work at the scene when several people were killed and injured when a car ploughed into pedestrians in Muenster, western Germany on April 7, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / dpa / - / Germany OUT (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)
MUENSTER, GERMANY - APRIL 07: Police stand at a street blocking access to the site where a van drove into a crowd of people seated outside a pub on April 7, 2018 in Muenster, Germany. Three people are reportedly dead and at least 30 injured in what police are already claiming is a deliberate attack. Police also confirmed the driver committed suicide just after the incident. A motive for the attack is thus far unclear. (Photo by Ant Palmer/Getty Images)
MUENSTER, GERMANY - APRIL 07: Police stand at a street blocking access to the site where a van drove into a crowd of people seated outside a pub on April 7, 2018 in Muenster, Germany. Three people are reportedly dead and at least 30 injured in what police are already claiming is a deliberate attack. Police also confirmed the driver committed suicide just after the incident. A motive for the attack is thus far unclear. (Photo by Ant Palmer/Getty Images)
Police officer patrol the area near the scene when several people were killed and injured when a car ploughed into pedestrians in Muenster, western Germany on April 7, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / dpa / Bernd Thissen / Germany OUT (Photo credit should read BERND THISSEN/AFP/Getty Images)
MUENSTER, GERMANY - APRIL 07: Police stand at a street blocking access to the site where a van drove into a crowd of people seated outside a pub on April 7, 2018 in Muenster, Germany. Three people are reportedly dead and at least 30 injured in what police are already claiming is a deliberate attack. Police also confirmed the driver committed suicide just after the incident. A motive for the attack is thus far unclear. (Photo by Ant Palmer/Getty Images)
Special Police officers are seen at the scene when several people were killed and injured when a car ploughed into pedestrians in Muenster, western Germany on April 7, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / dpa / Bernd Thissen / Germany OUT (Photo credit should read BERND THISSEN/AFP/Getty Images)
Police stands guard in a street near a place where a man drove a van into a group of people sitting outside a popular restaurant in the old city centre of Muenster, Germany, April 7, 2018. REUTERS/Leon Kuegeler
First responders work at the scene when several people were killed and injured when a car ploughed into pedestrians in Muenster, western Germany on April 7, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / dpa / - / Germany OUT (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)
Special Police officers and first responders are seen at the scene when several people were killed and injured when a car ploughed into pedestrians in Muenster, western Germany on April 7, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / dpa / - / Germany OUT (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)
MUENSTER, GERMANY - APRIL 07: Police stand at a street blocking access to the site where a van drove into a crowd of people seated outside a pub on April 7, 2018 in Muenster, Germany. Three people are reportedly dead and at least 30 injured in what police are already claiming is a deliberate attack. Police also confirmed the driver committed suicide just after the incident. A motive for the attack is thus far unclear. (Photo by Alexander Koerner/Getty Images)
MUENSTER, GERMANY - APRIL 07: Police stand at a street blocking access to the site where a van drove into a crowd of people seated outside a pub on April 7, 2018 in Muenster, Germany. Three people are reportedly dead and at least 30 injured in what police are already claiming is a deliberate attack. Police also confirmed the driver committed suicide just after the incident. A motive for the attack is thus far unclear. (Photo by Alexander Koerner/Getty Images)
Police officers are seen at the scene when several people were killed and injured when a car ploughed into pedestrians in Muenster, western Germany on April 7, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / dpa / Bernd Thissen / Germany OUT (Photo credit should read BERND THISSEN/AFP/Getty Images)
MUENSTER, GERMANY - APRIL 07: Police stand at a street blocking access to the site where a van drove into a crowd of people seated outside a pub on April 7, 2018 in Muenster, Germany. Three people are reportedly dead and at least 30 injured in what police are already claiming is a deliberate attack. Police also confirmed the driver committed suicide just after the incident. A motive for the attack is thus far unclear. (Photo by Alexander Koerner/Getty Images)
A Police helicopter flys overhead near the scene when several people were killed and injured Saturday when a car ploughed into pedestrians in Muenster, western Germany on April 7, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / dpa / Friso Gentsch / Germany OUT (Photo credit should read FRISO GENTSCH/AFP/Getty Images)
Police offices are seen at a cordon near the scene when several people were killed and injured Saturday when a car ploughed into pedestrians in Muenster, western Germany on April 7, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / dpa / Friso Gentsch / Germany OUT (Photo credit should read FRISO GENTSCH/AFP/Getty Images)
A Police officer is seen at a cordon near the scene when several people were killed and injured Saturday when a car ploughed into pedestrians in Muenster, western Germany on April 7, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / dpa / Friso Gentsch / Germany OUT (Photo credit should read FRISO GENTSCH/AFP/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - A police cordon is seen at the scene when several people were killed and injured when a car ploughed into pedestrians in Muenster, western Germany on April 7, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / dpa / Friso Gentsch / Germany OUT (Photo credit should read FRISO GENTSCH/AFP/Getty Images)
First responders work at the scene when several people were killed and injured when a car ploughed into pedestrians in Muenster, western Germany on April 7, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / dpa / - / Germany OUT (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)
Police officer patrol the area near the scene when several people were killed and injured when a car ploughed into pedestrians in Muenster, western Germany on April 7, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / dpa / Bernd Thissen / Germany OUT (Photo credit should read BERND THISSEN/AFP/Getty Images)
Police officer patrol the area near the scene when several people were killed and injured when a car ploughed into pedestrians in Muenster, western Germany on April 7, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / dpa / Bernd Thissen / Germany OUT (Photo credit should read BERND THISSEN/AFP/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - Special Police officers are seen at the scene when several people were killed and injured when a car ploughed into pedestrians in Muenster, western Germany on April 7, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / dpa / Bernd Thissen / Germany OUT (Photo credit should read BERND THISSEN/AFP/Getty Images)
Armed Police officers are seen at the scene when several people were killed and injured when a car ploughed into pedestrians in Muenster, western Germany on April 7, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / dpa / Friso Gentsch / Germany OUT (Photo credit should read FRISO GENTSCH/AFP/Getty Images)
Picture taken on April 7, 2018 shows the scene where several people were killed and injured when a vehicle ploughed into pedestrians at a cafe in Muenster, western Germany. / AFP PHOTO / dpa / Stephan R. / Germany OUT (Photo credit should read STEPHAN R./AFP/Getty Images)
First responders are seen at the scene when several people were killed and injured when a car ploughed into pedestrians in Muenster, western Germany on April 7, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / dpa / Friso Gentsch / Germany OUT (Photo credit should read FRISO GENTSCH/AFP/Getty Images)
MUENSTER, GERMANY - APRIL 07: Members of a SWAT unit search the appartment of the suspect who drove a van into a crowd of people seated outside a pub on April 7, 2018 in Muenster, Germany. Three people are reportedly dead and at least 30 injured in what police are already claiming is a deliberate attack. Police also confirmed the driver committed suicide just after the incident. A motive for the attack is thus far unclear. (Photo by Alexander Koerner/Getty Images)
Special Police officers and first responders are seen at the scene when several people were killed and injured when a car ploughed into pedestrians in Muenster, western Germany on April 7, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / dpa / - / Germany OUT (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)
Police officers are seen at the scene when several people were killed and injured when a car ploughed into pedestrians in Muenster, western Germany on April 7, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / dpa / Bernd Thissen / Germany OUT (Photo credit should read BERND THISSEN/AFP/Getty Images)
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The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reported in its online edition that the perpetrator was Jens R., aged 48, who lived some 2 km (1.2 miles) from the crime scene.

Broadcaster ZDF said police were searching his apartment and that he had contact with far-right extremists, but there was no evidence thus far that he was a far-right extremist himself.

The Sueddeutsche Zeitung said the man had psychological problems. The Interior Ministry in North Rhine-Westphalia would neither confirm nor deny the report.

Bode said investigators were looking at the possibility that other suspects fled the scene, though they had no evidence that this was the case, he added.

Bild newspaper said police were searching for two possible additional suspects after witnesses said they had seen two people jump out of the van. Jens R. had no police record, the newspaper said.

"The crime scene investigators are checking out the crime scene, trying to identify, investigate and secure traces. That is our current task," Bode said.

A police spokeswoman said: "The danger is over."

Martin Wiech, who said he had studied in Muenster, told Der Spiegel he had driven to Muenster to go shopping and was now unable to return to his car.

"Unbelievable that something like this could happen in Muenster. It is one of the most peaceful cities I know," he said.

 

MERKEL "SHAKEN"

The incident came one year to the day after a truck attack in Stockholm that killed five people.

It also evoked memories of a December 2016 truck attack in Berlin that killed 12. In that attack, Anis Amri, a failed Tunisian asylum seeker with Islamist links, hijacked a truck, killed the driver and then plowed into a crowded marketplace, killing 11 more people and injuring dozens of others.

Chancellor Angela Merkel said in a statement she was "deeply shaken."

"Everything possible is now being done to clarify the facts and to support the victims and their relatives," she added.

French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted: "All my thoughts are with the victims of the attack in Muenster. France shares in Germany's suffering."

Der Spiegel reported that police were investigating a similar incident that occurred in the eastern German city of Cottbus on Friday evening, when a man drove his car into a group of people, injuring two, before fleeing.

(Additional reporting by Sabine Siebold and Andrea Shalal in Berlin, Matthias Inverardi in Duesseldorf, and Sarah White in Paris Writing by Paul Carrel Editing by Dale Hudson and Hugh Lawson)

 

 

 

 

 

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