3 dead, including driver, after van crashes into German restaurant

A man drove a van into a group of people sitting outside a popular restaurant in the old city centre of Muenster in western Germany on Saturday, killing two of them before shooting himself dead, police said.

The vehicle plowed into people sitting at tables outside the Grosser Kiepenkerl restaurant, which is popular with tourists, at about 9:30 a.m. ET.

Three people were killed and 20 injured, with six seriously injured, police spokesperson Andreas Bode said. “The perpetrator killed himself in the vehicle.”

Herbert Reul, the interior minister of North Rhine-Westphalia state, where Muenster is located, said the three dead include the perpetrator.

Everything conceivable is being done to investigate the crime and to support the victims and their relatives.– Angela Merkel, German chancellor

Reul told German television the suspect was a German citizen and there was “no indication of an Islamist background.”

He stressed the investigation is at an early stage, but said “at the moment, nothing speaks for there being any Islamist background,” and added: “We are investigating in all directions.”

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reported in its online edition that the perpetrator was Jens R., 48, who lived about two kilometres 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 he was a far-right extremist himself.

Motive unclear

The Sueddeutsche Zeitung said the van driver 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.

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.

Police guards patrol downtown Muenster after a van crashed into people sitting outside a restaurant.(The Associated Press)

Outside Muenster University Hospital, a long queue formed of people wanting to give blood after the hospital put an urgent call out for donations.

Jan Schoessler, among those in the line, said dozens of people were waiting shortly after the doors opened.

Within an hour, the University Hospital had suspended its appeal for blood donors because so many people had come forward. It said on Twitter: “We thank you for your overwhelming support.” 

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 left 12 people dead. 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.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said was “deeply shocked by the terrible events in Muenster.”

In a statement, Merkel said “everything conceivable is being done to investigate the crime and to support the victims and their relatives. My thanks go to all the responders at the scene.” 

Andrea Nahles, parliamentary leader of the Social Democrats, junior partner in Merkel’s ruling coalition, also expressed shock, saying: “My thoughts are with the victims and their relatives. I hope that our authorities can quickly clarify the background to this incident and wish the local forces much strength for their work.”

Government spokesperson Ulrike Demmer tweeted: “Awful news from Muenster. Our thoughts are with the victims and their relatives.

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