German prosecutors urge security review for carnival parades

VOLKMARSEN, Germany (Reuters) – German prosecutors urged carnival organizers on Tuesday to review their security arrangements after a local man plowed his car into a parade in the western German town of Volksmarsen, injuring more than 50 people, including 18 children.

The incident on Monday shook Germans still struggling to take in last week’s racist gun attack on two bars in the town of Hanau which left 11 people dead.

While some carnival processions in the state of Hesse, home to Volksmarsen, were canceled, others were due to take place in the region on Tuesday.

Rose Monday is the height of the carnival season in Catholic areas of Germany, especially in the Rhineland where tens of thousands of people dress up, drink alcohol and line the streets to watch parades and satirical floats.

Prosecutors said there was no concrete reason to think that the risks of attacks at parades had increased, but they urged organizers to review their security arrangements and adjust them if necessary, with policing potentially increased.

Security at public events in Germany has been tightened since a Tunisian man with Islamist militant ties plowed a truck into a Christmas market in Berlin in 2016, killing 12 people. He was later shot dead by Italian police after fleeing.

Thirty five people were still in hospital on Tuesday, while another 17 had left hospital after treatment, police said on Twitter. Eighteen of the injured were children.

Police detained the driver, a 29-year-old German from Volksmarsen, on suspicion of attempted homicide. His motive was still unclear and investigations were ongoing, they said.

The man, who had been driving a silver Mercedes car, was being treated for his own injuries and would appear before a investigating magistrate as soon as his condition allowed, state prosecutors said.

German media said he was suffering from a head injury.

“There are so far no indications of politically-motivated criminality,” Bild cited an investigator as saying.

“But we think that the perpetrator acted with intent, and that psychological problems may have played a role,” the investigator added.

Prosecutors confirmed that a second man had been detained at the scene on Monday and was accused of filming the incident.

The street where the incident happened in the center of the small town was still cordoned off by police on Tuesday and several stores in the area were closed.

“It’s terrible. I don’t know how somebody could do this, especially to children,” said Rainer Bellmann, a 58-year-old local resident.

Locals told Reuters that police had searched two homes in the town, including one apartment near to the scene that a police officer said was the home of relatives of the man.

Several German media outlets, including public broadcaster ZDF, reported that the man was believed to have been under the influence of alcohol or possibly drugs but investigators have so far declined to confirm this.

On Tuesday, Focus magazine cited prosecutors as saying the driver was not drunk, but it was unclear whether he had taken drugs.

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