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Driver Slams Car Into German Carnival Crowd

BERLIN — A 29-year-old man drove his car into a carnival parade in a German town on Monday, according to the police and prosecutors, injuring about 30 people, including children, and shaking a country already on edge after a racist shooting that killed several people last week.

The state prosecutor in Frankfurt said the authorities suspect that the driver, a German from the region where the crash took place, had deliberately steered his vehicle into the crowd of families with young children who had packed the streets for an annual Shrove Monday parade.

Germany’s top security official, Horst Seehofer, last week declared far-right extremism to be “the biggest threat to our democracy right now” and ordered an increased police presence at large public events.

Regional law-enforcement officials said, however, that they had no indication of a political motivation for the crash on Monday in the small town of Volkmarsen.

“At this time we cannot give any further information about what led to the act, especially regarding a motive,” Alexander Badle, a spokesman for prosecutors said in a statement. “We are investigating in all possible directions.”

Seven people sustained serious injuries, the police said, but none of them appeared to be life-threatening.

The driver, whose name was not released, was being treated for injuries sustained in the crash and could not immediately be questioned, Mr. Badle said. Police officers raided the man’s home and confiscated his digital devices and other materials as part of their investigation.

The police urged people to send any videos of the incident or other information directly to them instead of sharing them on the internet, in an effort to tamp down anxiety in the country, which has endured a string of violent attacks by far-right extremists in the past year.

Witnesses said they saw a man in a silver Mercedes drive around barriers set up by the police. He then increased his speed and then plowed into the crowd, they said.

“A car came speeding down the street where the parade was and drove right into the crowd at full speed,” Bernd Kreutzmann told ZDF, a public broadcaster. “There were many people laying on the sidewalk — many children. Their mothers started screaming. It was terrible.”

The crash took place at about 2:30 p.m. in Volkmarsen, days after an extremist killed nine people last week in the city of Hanau, 135 miles south of Volkmarsen. The authorities said the gunman in Hanau, who was later found dead alongside his mother, harbored a “deeply racist worldview” that led him to shoot people in two hookah bars, in the racially diverse city.

In Volkmarsen, a town of about 7,000, parents and children dressed in bright costumes for the Shrove Monday holiday, when thousands of Germans throng the streets for carnival parades, which are particularly popular in Roman Catholic regions in the country’s west and south.

Images from the area of the crash showed a scene of destruction. The silver Mercedes station wagon, believed to be the car that had crashed into the crowd, could be seen on the street outside a supermarket, surrounded by police officers and carnival participants dressed as clowns and animals.

Behind the car were scattered the wheels of a child’s wagon, its wooden sides splintered. Other debris lay on the ground, surrounded by police officers and emergency responders who had treated the injured.

Volkmarsen is about 10 miles from a town where a local politician who defended the refugee policy of Chancellor Angela Merkel was shot in the head last June in what the German authorities believe was the country’s first far-right political assassination since the Nazi era.

“Five days after Hanau, it goes without saying that everyone, in the back of their mind is thinking, ‘Oh, god, what now?’ ” said Volker Bouffier, the governor of Hesse, who also cautioned people to remain calm. “Wild speculation doesn’t help anything.”


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