German police: Man intentionally drove into crowd, injured 4

A picture taken on January 1, 2019 in Bottrop shows a cordoned off area at the site where a man injured four people after driving into a group celebrating the new year, in what police described as an anti-migrant attack. - The incident took place a little after midnight in the town of Bottrop, about 12 kilometres (eight miles) north of Essen in Germany's west. The driver first tried to run over a person, but they managed to get out of the way. He then drove into a group setting off fireworks in the street, as many people do when celebrating the new year in Germany. (Photo by Marcel Kusch / dpa / AFP)

BERLIN — A man drove his car into a crowd of people in western Germany early Tuesday, injuring at least four in what appears to have been an intentional attack directed at foreigners, police said.

The 50-year-old driver of a silver Mercedes first attempted to hit a group of people in the city of Bottrop shortly after midnight, but the pedestrians were able to jump out of the way, Muenster police said.

The man, who wasn’t named, then drove into the center of Bottrop where he slammed into a crowd. Police said those hit by the car included Syrian and Afghan citizens, and some were seriously injured.

The driver then sped off toward the nearby city of Essen, where he tried and failed to hit people waiting at a bus stop before being arrested by police on suspicion of attempted homicide.

A picture taken on January 1, 2019 in Bottrop shows policemen standing in a cordoned off area at the site where a man injured four people after driving into a group celebrating the new year, in what police described as an anti-migrant attack. – The incident took place a little after midnight in the town of Bottrop, about 12 kilometres (eight miles) north of Essen in Germany’s west. The driver first tried to run over a person, but they managed to get out of the way. He then drove into a group setting off fireworks in the street, as many people do when celebrating the new year in Germany. (Photo by Marcel Kusch / dpa / AFP)

Authorities said the driver made anti-foreigner comments during his arrest.

“Investigating authorities are currently working on the assumption that this was a targeted attack, possibly motivated by the anti-foreigner views of the driver,” police said, adding that there were indications the suspect suffered from mental illness.

Angela Luettmann, a spokeswoman for Muenster police, couldn’t immediately confirm whether the driver was German but said he came from Essen.

In April, a German man drove a van into a crowd in Muenster, killing four people and injuring dozens. The driver, who had sought psychological help in the weeks preceding the attack, then killed himself.

On Dec. 19, 2016, a Tunisian man ploughed a truck into a busy Christmas market in Berlin, killing 12 people. The attack was claimed by the Islamic State group. The driver, who fled the scene, was later killed in a shootout with police in Italy.

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