4 injured in German car attack

Authorities say the man expressed racist views when arrested.

A picture taken on January 1, 2019 in Bottrop shows a police car 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.
 - Germany OUT
 / AFP / dpa / Marcel Kusch
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A 50-year-old German man clearly intended to kill foreigners when he rammed his car into a crowd of people in the northwestern German town of Bottrop in the early hours of New Year's Day, a senior government official said.

Police said the man, who was not named, made racist comments when he was stopped and arrested in the nearby city of Essen after fleeing the scene of the attack which injured four.

"A German man deliberately drove into crowds of people ... that were largely made up of foreigners. There was a clear intention by this man to kill foreigners," said Herbert Reul, interior minister of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, where Bottrop is located.

Earlier, police and prosecutors said they suspected the attack, which took place at a crowded plaza, was deliberate and "linked to the xenophobic views of the driver."

They said there was also preliminary information that the man was mentally ill, but he had no prior police record.

A police spokeswoman said Syrian and Afghan citizens were among those injured, but gave no further details. She said one of the four people injured remained in hospital.

Earlier the driver had steered his car at another pedestrian, who escaped unharmed, Reul said. He also targeted people at a bus stop after fleeing the scene of the Bottrop attack, but they were not injured, police said.

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Horst Seehofer, Germany's federal interior minister, told Bild the Bottrop case would be carefully investigated, along with an incident that occurred in Bavaria on Saturday in which four asylum-seekers were arrested on suspicion of attacking a dozen people.

"It is a matter of political credibility to pursue both cases decisively and aggressively," he told the paper.