Was The Muenster, Germany, Van Crash Terrorism? Authorities Say It Killed At Least 3 People

Mathis Wienand/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

On Saturday, in the German city of Münster, a van plowed into pedestrians, killing at least three people and injuring more. A German security official told The Washington Post that the man driving the vehicle then shot himself. It's unclear if the Münster van crash was connected to terrorism, but the security official said that police are responding, at least in the immediate aftermath, as though it were.

Update: A top German official has told 'The Washington Post' that investigators do not believe it was a terrorist attack. Investigators have described him as a psychologically disturbed man with German citizenship. Herbert Reul, the interior minister of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, told the 'Post,' "At the moment, there is no evidence that there is any Islamist background" to the incident.

Earlier: A police spokeswoman said that authorities are investigating the crash as a "deliberate attack." CNN reported that police say at least 30 people are injured, and the van used is being described by multiple outlets as a delivery van. It had rammed into pedestrians near the Kiepenkerl statue in an old area of the city, where many flock to on the weekends. The Associated Press reported that the van had crashed into a crowd in front of a popular bar.

Photos from the scene, according to The Washington Post, show chairs broken and strewn across a plaza. Police cars and fire vehicles were also seen surrounding the area. Police have told people to avoid the city center.

"There are dead and injured. Please avoid the area,” the North Rhine-Westphalia regional police wrote on Twitter, according to The Washington Post. “We are on site.” Deutsche Welle reported that the police tweeted urging people not to "spread rumors on Twitter and Facebook."

German Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokeswoman told Sky News that her "thoughts are with the victims and their families." Justice Minister Katarina Barley tweeted about the incident, writing in German, "Our thoughts are with the victims and their relatives. Thank you to all the emergency services. Everything must be done to clarify the facts."

Berlin journalist Anna Noryskiewicz, who spoke to CBS News, said that it was unclear "if the shooter shouted anything," which eyewitnesses in prior vehicle attacks have said they heard from the driver. "No witnesses have said something like that," Noryskiewicz told CBS News. "What we know is that the attacker killed himself right after."

According to the Associated Press, police found an object deemed suspicious in the van, and they are examining it to determine what it is and if it poses any danger.

Vehicle attacks have occurred in several cities across Europe, including in Germany, over the past few years. The incident in Münster comes exactly one year after a man stole a truck and drove it into a crowd in Stockholm, Sweden, killing five and injuring more than a dozen. The man in the Stockholm truck attack admitted to committing a "terrorist crime," his lawyer reportedly said.

In August 2017, Spain suffered its worth terrorist attack in more than 10 years when a van crashed into a crowd at one of Barcelona's most popular tourist areas. That attack killed more than a dozen people, and ISIS later claimed responsibility for it.

In 2016, a stolen truck similarly rammed into a crowd at a bustling Christmas market in Berlin, killing 12 people and injuring some 50 more.

But such attacks haven't only taken place in Europe; in October 2017, a pickup truck drove into a busy bicycle lane in Manhattan. The man who rented the truck had claimed that he did it for ISIS. That attack killed eight and injured nearly a dozen people.

In the hours following the incident, the mayor of Münster, Markus Lewe, told the Associated Press that authorities don't yet know the motive behind the attack. "All of Muenster is mourning this horrible incident," he added. "Our sympathy is with the relatives of those who were killed. We wish the injured a quick recovery."