UPDATE: Around 30 hurt as car rams Germany carnival procession

Some 30 people including children were injured Monday when a car ploughed into a carnival procession in the small German town of Volkmarsen, with police arresting the driver but declining to speculate on a motive.

UPDATE: Around 30 hurt as car rams Germany carnival procession
Peter Beuth (CDU, 2nd from right), Minister of the Interior of Hesse, is standing with emergency forces near the spot where a car drove into a Rose Monday procession. According to Frankfurt police chi

Prosecutors in Frankfurt said the 29-year-old suspect was a German national who faces charges of attempted homicide over the incident in the western state of Hesse.

The investigation was continuing “in all directions”, they said in a statement, after police stopped short of calling the incident an attack.

The drama came as Germany remains on high alert following a shooting spree  by a far-right gunman in the city of Hanau, also in Hesse, last Wednesday, who killed 10 people.

READ ALSO: Shootings in Germany: What we know so far about the far-right suspected shisha bar attacks

Eyewitness reports at the carnival parade described the driver ploughing through a barrier in a silver car and driving straight through the crowd at high speed.

“It appears to have been an intentional act,” a local police spokesman told reporters, but said the incident was not being classified as an attack until investigators had more information.

Around 30 people were injured, some of them seriously, the Frankfurt prosecutors said. Children were among those hurt.

The driver was also injured and was receiving medical care, prosecutors added.

Citing sources close to the investigation, Spiegel weekly said the driver had apparently “consumed a high level of alcohol”.

Chancellor Angela Merkel said her thoughts are with family of the victims, as she wished them “a speedy and complete recovery”, according to her spokeswoman on Twitter.

Hesse state premier Volker Bouffier said he was “shocked at the terrible  act”.

But he added: “The circumstances surrounding this act remain unclear and I urge you not to speculate about possible motives.”

Police seal off the area after the incident. Photo: DPA
'In shock'

As in many parts of the country, residents in Volkmarsen were celebrating Rose Monday, a highlight of annual carnival festivities that sees adults and children dress up and attend parades where people play music and throw candies from floats.

Steffen Roettger said his two daughters were at the parade and called him right after the incident happened at around 2:30 pm.
“My 10-year-old was pulled aside and only narrowly avoided being hit,” he told NTV broadcaster.
He said the girl was “in shock” and needed medical attention after seeing people “lying around everywhere”.
“She won't get those images out of her head in a hurry.”
Elmar Schulten, a reporter for the local Waldeckische Landeszeitung newspaper, told the Bild daily that locals in the town of some 7,000 people were in disbelief.
“We always thought this kind of thing only happened elsewhere,” he said.
Images from the scene showed police officers and rescue vehicles next to a silver Mercedes hatchback, having apparently come to a halt outside a Rewe supermarket.
A pile of debris can be seen on the road next to the car, including a broken wooden cart, a knocked-over traffic cone and bottles of sparkling wine.
Several dozen people were pictured milling around on the sidewalk, many in colourful costumes, before the area was sealed off by police.
Police in Hesse announced on Twitter that all carnival parades across the state had been cancelled as a precaution.

More police

In last week's attack in Hanau, the gunman — who left behind a racist manifesto — first opened fire at a shisha bar and a cafe, 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.

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 group.

The Christmas market assault prompted police across Germany to tighten security at public gatherings.

After the Hanau shootings, Interior Minister Horst Seehofer on Friday vowed to put more police at mosques, train stations, airports and borders.

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UPDATE: Mysterious vandals damage dozens of works of art on Berlin’s Museum Island

Vandals have damaged more than 70 artworks and artifacts at some of Berlin's most renowned museums, police said Wednesday, in a targeted attack kept quiet by authorities for more than two weeks.

UPDATE: Mysterious vandals damage dozens of works of art on Berlin's Museum Island
The sun sets on the Alte Nationalgalerie in July. Photo: DPA

The damage had already occurred on October 3rd, or the Day of German Reunification, according to media reports in Zeit and Deutschland Rundfunk. 

Around 70 objects in the Neues Museum, Pergamon Museum and Alte Nationalgalerie, among other locations, were sprayed with an oily liquid. 

According to Die Zeit, this is “one of the most extensive attacks on works of art and antiquities in the history of post-war Germany”. 

Among them are Egyptian sarcophagi, stone sculptures and paintings of the 19th century. The liquid had left visible stains on them.

According to Berlin's Tagesspiegel, visitors who had booked museum tickets for October 3rd were contacted by the State Office of Criminal Investigation (LKA) and urgently asked for help.

“The state criminal investigation office of the Berlin police has opened a probe over property damage to artworks and artifacts on display,” spokesman Martin Dams said in an emailed statement.

Dams said police believe the vandalism occurred on October 3rd, Germany Unity Day, during opening hours at the Pergamon Museum, Neues Museum and Alte Nationalgalerie.

He did not say why neither the museums nor the police had communicated earlier about the attack, which was first reported late Tuesday in German media.

Dams did not provide any information about a possible motive.

However a report by Die Zeit and public broadcaster Deutschlandfunk noted that Attila Hildmann, an activist who has railed against government measures to contain the coronavirus, had in August and September spread outlandish conspiracy theories about the Museum Island.

Using his Telegram channel, Hildmann claimed the Pergamon Museum, closed for part of the summer due to the pandemic, held the “throne of Satan”.

He said the institution was the centre of a “global satanist and corona criminal scene” where “they sacrifice humans at night and abuse children”, in an echo of the international QAnon conspiracy movement.

UNESCO World Heritage Site

The Museum Island has been a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site since 1999. The Pergamon Museum celebrated its 90th birthday at the beginning of October. 

READ ALSO: 10 must-see UNESCO World Heritage Sites in eastern Germany

The museum is named after its most famous attraction, the Pergamon Altar. It dates from the 2nd century B.C. and was part of the residence of the powerful kings of Pergamon, who created a cultural metropolis in the west of present-day Turkey based on the model of Athens.

Pergamon is one of Germany’s few museums attracts more than one million people every year – when it is not undergoing construction. 

The Island’s museums count almost 3.1 million visitors each year. They include the Bode Museum, Neues Museum with the famous Egyptian pharaoh bust of Nefertiti, and the James Simon Gallery – the most recent construction located between two arms of the Spree.

READ ALSO: €1 gold coin stolen from iconic Berlin museum