A “targeted attack” in which a man aimed at pedestrians with his car in two German cities is reportedly being investigated as terror-related, and may have been caused by a combination of racism and a mental disorder.
Investigators are treating the series of assaults which began late Tuesday as an act of terrorism, Der Tagesspiegel has learned. The incident has drawn comparisons to lone wolf attacks carried out by radical Islamists, the newspaper reports, citing security sources.
The suspect, known as Andreas N., 50, attempted to ram his Mercedes into pedestrians in the city of Bottrop in west-central Germany, just minutes before midnight on New Years Eve.
Having initially missed his target, he went on with his hunt, hitting several people as a result. This included a family of four from Syria, with the mother receiving a life-threatening injury. She was later operated on, and there is now no longer any danger to her life, police say.
Another Syrian girl, as well as a 4-year-old boy and his mother, both from Afghanistan, were also injured. Continuing his rampage, the man drove to the neighboring city of Essen where he hit a male “with Turkish background.”
Shortly afterwards, law enforcement managed to apprehend the suspect – a German national who made “xenophobic” remarks during his arrest. The court later approved an arrest warrant for him on suspicion of multiple homicide attempts.
According to later reports, when questioned by officers, Andreas N. said that it is unfair that foreign nationals get state unemployment benefits. The suspect himself is said to be unemployed and a welfare recipient. Investigators have not established that the man is a member of “right-wing radical circles” or has any ties to them.
North Rhine-Westphalia Interior Minister Herbert Reul said the perpetrator had a “clear intention to kill foreigners.” Police also announced earlier that the assault was likely a “targeted attack.”
Andreas N. was previously admitted to a mental facility on at least one occasion and was treated for schizophrenia at one point, according to local media. It is alleged that the assault could have been a combination of racism and schizophrenia.
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