Minister: Muenster attacker who killed 2 with van was lone German with mental problems

MUENSTER, Germany, April 8 (Reuters) - 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 on Sunday.

The man killed two people when he plowed the vehicle into people seated at tables outside the Grosser Kiepenkerl eatery, a popular destination for tourists in the old town of the university city in western Germany. He then shot himself dead.

"We now know it was in all likelihood a lone perpetrator, a German," Herbert Reul, interior minister of North Rhine-Westphalia, home to Muenster, told reporters.

"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 with national Interior Minister Horst Seehofer and state premier Armin Laschet.

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

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.

In Berlin in December 2016, a Tunisian whose request for asylum was turned down and who had links to Islamist militants hijacked a truck and plowed into a crowded marketplace. Twelve people, including the man driving the truck when it was hijacked, were killed.

Police said on Sunday they were still investigating possible motives and forensic investigators were scouring the scene of the attack for clues.

Seehofer described the attack as a "cowardly and brutal crime." He, Laschet and Reul laid flowers in central Muenster and paid their respects to the victims of the attack.

"We have again experienced that ... absolute security is unfortunately not possible," Seehofer said, adding that the government would do everything possible to protect citizens.

Police said the perpetrator was aged 48. The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reported in its online edition that he was Jens R., who resided some 2 km (1.2 miles) from the crime scene.

A 51-year-old woman from the Lueneburg area in northern Germany and a 65-year-old man from the Borken area near Muenster were killed.

Chancellor Angela Merkel said in a statement she was "deeply shaken." In the months prior to the Berlin assault, Germany suffered a number of small-scale Islamist militant attacks, which some linked to Merkel's decision in 2015 to open the country's borders to an influx of migrants, many of them refugees from conflicts in the Middle East.

Saturday's attack in Muenster came a year to the day of a truck attack in Stockholm in which a suspected Islamist militant sympathizer links killed five people.

On Saturday evening, the White House issued a statement sending U.S. President Donald Trump's "thoughts and prayers" to the families of those killed.

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

(Writing by Paul Carrel Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

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