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A Note from the General Manager about Excursions

At Least 3 Killed In Germany Car Attack

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

In Germany today, a man drove a van into a crowd of people in the western city of Muenster, leaving people dead and injured. Police investigators are looking into the motive. NPR's Esme Nicholson has the latest.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: (Speaking German).

ESME NICHOLSON, BYLINE: On watch was the first warm spring day this year. The residents of Muenster were out enjoying the sunshine when a vehicle crashed into a crowd of people sitting outside a bar in the town center. At least two people were killed and 20 injured. The driver then remained in the van and shot himself dead. Police spokesperson Andreas Bode says they've received reports from bystanders that there were other people in the vehicle.

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ANDREAS BODE: (Through interpreter) Some witnesses say they think they saw accomplices flee from the car, but we have no concrete evidence of this. And our investigations are ongoing.

NICHOLSON: Such horrific scenes are becoming all too common in Europe, where trucks are being used as weapons in terror attacks. But the motives behind this incident are still unclear. A leading broadsheet, the Suddeutsche Zeitung, reports that the driver, a middle-aged German man, was known to be psychologically unstable. North Rhine-Westphalia's interior minister, Herbert Reul, says it's unlikely this was the work of Islamist extremists.

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HERBET REUEL: (Through interpreter) Currently, no evidence indicates that this was an Islamist attack, but we have to wait and see and give the police time to do their job.

NICHOLSON: Police have been searching the driver's apartment for explosives following reports that a suspect package was found inside the vehicle. German media report that police are also investigating a possible right-wing extremist motive. Witnesses have remarked that the streets are eerily quiet despite a heavy police presence. The mayor of Muenster, Markus Lewe, says his city is in shock.

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MARKUS LEWE: (Through interpreter) We are all in mourning. Our deepest sympathies go to the families of the victims, and we wish those with injuries a speedy recovery.

NICHOLSON: German Chancellor Angela Merkel issued a statement of support and thanked the emergency services for their quick response. While the authorities believe the incident is not related to Islamist extremism, the far-right populist Alternative fur Deutschland party is already using the attack for political gain. Deputy Leader Beatrix von Storch tweeted this afternoon that, quote, "even if the perpetrator is German, we have enough murderers and crazies here already. We don't need any more moving here," end quote. Meanwhile, in Muenster, locals banded together to help the injured, and a long line formed outside the hospital where people waited to give blood. For NPR News, I'm Esme Nicholson in Berlin. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.