'Several injured' as car rams Germany carnival procession
A broken handcart is seen in front of cars of the police, the fire brigades and an ambulance on Rose Monday, February 24, 2020 in Volkmarsen near Kassel, Germany. AFP
Several people were injured Monday when a car drove into a carnival procession in central Germany, police said, adding that the driver had been arrested.
A spokeswoman for police in the town of Volkmarsen where the incident took place told AFP "it is too soon" to say whether the driver ploughed into the crowd on purpose.
"According to first reports, several people have been injured," police from nearby Kassel city said in a statement. "There is a large police presence at the scene. The driver of the car was detained by a police officer."
The local Waldeckische Zeitung daily cited witnesses as reporting that some 15 people were injured, "including small children".
Pictures from the scene showed police officers and rescue vehicles next to a silver Mercedes hatchback with its doors open, having apparently come to a halt outside a REWE supermarket. A pile of debris is seen on the side of the road next to the car, including a knocked-over traffic cone and bottles of sparkling wine.
Several dozen people are seen milling around on the sidewalk, many in colourful costumes. In many parts of Germany residents are celebrating Rose Monday, a highlight of the annual carnival festivities that sees adults and children alike dress up and attend parades where people play music and throw candies from floats.
The incident comes as Germany is still reeling from a shooting spree in the city of Hanau, in the same German state of Hesse, that left 10 people dead last Wednesday.
The gunman, who left behind a racist manifesto, first opened fire at a shisha bar and a cafe in Hanau, killing nine people, before shooting dead his mother and himself. The rampage fuelled concerns over Germany's increasingly emboldened far right scene, after a pro-migrant politician was murdered in June and an anti-Semitic attack on a synagogue left two dead in the city of Halle last October.
Condemning the violence in Hanau, Chancellor Angela Merkel said Germany had to fight back against the "poison" of racism and hatred running through German society. Thousands of Germans later joined vigils to mourn the victims and call for more protection for minorities.
Many also used the occasion to vent their anger at the far-right AfD party, which has been accused of stoking anti-foreigner sentiment and normalising hate speech in recent years. Germany's deadliest terror attack in recent history took place in 2016 when a jihadist drove his truck into a crowded Berlin Christmas market, killing 12 people.
The attacker, a failed Tunisian asylum seeker, had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (IS) group. The Christmas market rampage prompted police across Germany to tighten security at public gatherings. In response to the shootings in Hanau, Interior Minister Horst Seehofer on Friday again vowed to ramp up security and put more police at mosques, train stations, airports and borders.