German Interior Minister Herbert Reul told reporters police had no reason to suspect Islamic terrorism as a motive in the attack in Muenster that killed two people and injured 20 this past weekend. Reul added that it was too soon to tell.
“We have to wait, and we are investigating in all directions,” Reul said.
The unnamed suspect, a 48-year-old graphic designer who lived near the crime scene, was described by German police as a citizen with possible psychological problems, although official spokesman Peter Nuessmeyer would not confirm this to the Associated Press. The suspect intentionally drove a gray van onto the sidewalk at The Kiepenkerl, a popular outdoor restaurant. Patrons fled screaming as first responders rushed to the scene, and Islamic extremism was initially suspected. There had been similar incidents in Berlin in previous years involving Syrian or Middle Eastern refugees who had been radicalized.
Andreas Bode, a police spokesman in Muenster, said six of the 20 people injured were in critical condition, and that the driver took his own life with a gunshot while still in the vehicle.
“There was a potentially suspicious object in the vehicle,” Bode added. “We are investigating what it is.”
The object was described by German media reports as having protruding wires like a bomb. A large area was cordoned off as a precaution.
“The whole city of Muenster is in mourning,” said Muenster Mayor Markus Lewe. “We don’t yet know at this point what was behind this horrible incident.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she was “deeply shocked by the terrible events in Muenster.”
“Everything conceivable is being done to investigate the crime and to support the victims and their relatives,” Merkel said in a statement. “My thanks go to all the responders at the scene.”
The White House also released a statement: “While the German authorities have not yet announced a motive for this cowardly attack on innocent people, we condemn it regardless, and pledge any support from the United States Government that Germany may need.”