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Heidelberg police charge 35-year-old German driver with murder

The man who drove a car into pedestrians in Heidelberg, killing one of them, is to be kept in custody, accused of murder and attempted murder. Police have released more details on the case.

The man who drove his rental car into a pedestrian zone in Heidelberg in southwestern Germany,will not be released from police custody anytime soon. On Sunday, an arrest warrant was issued against the 35-year-old German, charging him with one case of murder and three cases of attempted murder.

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Car attack in German city kills one

A 73-year old man suffered fatal injuries when the vehicle was driven into a group of people early on Saturday evening. Two other people were slightly injured: a 32-year-old Austrian and a 29-year-old Bosnian. A fourth person was able to jump out of the car's way. He was not injured, police said on Sunday.

The local police released a report with more information on Sunday afternoon on Twitter, along with the caption "#State prosecution obtains #arrest warrant, motive still unclear."

According to the press release, the 35-year-old man is a university student who lived in Heidelberg and has no criminal record. He had rented the vehicle used in the attack two weeks previously. 

The knife the man was carrying when he fled the scene was a standard kitchen knife. He reportedly did not comply with the officers' requests to put down the knife when police caught up with him a few hundred meters from the crashed car. According to the police statement, a policeman fired his gun after the suspect ignored repeated calls to put down the knife and began charging at the officers who had unsuccessfully tried to stop him with pepper spray.

After receiving  emergency surgery, the man is recovering in hospital. He was questioned by police but made no comment on the charges against him. He is currently under surveillance until he can be transferred to a prison hospital.

Autofahrer fährt in Menschgruppe (picture-alliance/dpa/R. Priebe/PR-Video)

The 35-year-old German rammed his car into a busy square in downtown Heidelberg

Police are still investigating the individual's motives. "At this point in the investigation there are no indications of a terrorist or extremist background to the case," the officials said.

In December 2016, a truck was rammed through a Christmas Market in Berlin, killing 12 people. The 24-year-old responsible for that attack was an immigrant from Tunisia with suspected ties to the so-called "Islamic State" (IS). As a result, there had been speculation in the immediate aftermath of the attack in Heidelberg – in particular among far-right circles on social media - that the attacker could be an immigrant and a Muslim extremist. 

mb/jm (AFP, dpa)

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