A racially-motivated attack in Germany aimed at Syrian and Afghan citizens has sent four people to the hospital, and police have arrested the man who they say premeditated the attack, the Independent is reporting.
Shortly after midnight on New Year’s Day, the driver, whose name has not been released as of this writing, allegedly drove at a pedestrian in the city of Bottrop. The pedestrian managed to jump out of the way, but the man was not done; he headed towards the city center, where New Years Day celebrations were in full swing. There, he drove his car into a crowd of Syrian and Afghan citizens, hitting at least four.
He then fled the city, heading toward the nearby city of Essen, where he again attempted to drive into a crowd of people waiting at a bus stop. There were no injuries, and the man again fled the scene.
He was caught a short time later. Police say that he made “racist comments” as he was being taken into custody.
In a statement, Angela Luettmann, a spokeswoman for Muenster police, said that the 50-year-old man is believed to be mentally ill.
“Investigators suspect it was a deliberate attack that may be linked to the xenophobic views of the driver.”
As for the victims, four were taken to area hospitals. As of this writing, three have been treated and released. The extent of the injuries of the fourth victim remains unclear.
Germany has been the scene of several terrorist incidents in which drivers used their vehicles as weapons and target crowds of people for victims. For example, in April 2018, a man drove his car into a crowd of people in Muenster, killing four people and injuring dozens. The driver had sought mental health help in the weeks before the attack; he killed himself after the incident.
And in one of the worst terrorist attacks on European soil in recent years, back in December 2016, a Tunisian national drove a truck into a crowd at a busy Berlin Christmas market, killing 12 people and injuring scores of others. The terrorist was later killed in a shootout with police in Italy. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack, saying the man was a radicalized “lone wolf” who carried out the attack without support from the terrorist group, but who was motivated by their ideals.
There have also been terrorist incidents in the United States in which a car was driven into a crowd, such as in August 2018, when a driver allegedly drove his vehicle at counter-protesters following the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.