Four dead in Belgium as car hits early morning carnival crowd

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A car crashed into a crowd of early morning carnival-goers in Belgium on Sunday, killing six people and injuring 26 people seriously and 70 affected, authorities said.

“A car driving at high speed ran into the crowd that had gathered to attend (the carnival),” La Lou-viere mayor Jacques Gobert told Belga news agency.

Earlier reports listed four dead, but local news site Rtl.be raised the number to six.

The incident took place at about 5:00am at the carnival of Strepy-Bracquegnies, a district of the former industrial town of La Louviere, authorities said. “This Sunday morning, a vehicle collided with … a group of around 100 people which had just left the sports hall to go back up to the centre of the village,” the mayor’s office said in a statement.

The main suspects, who were arrested, were born in 1988 and 1990, he said, adding that terrorism was not at this stage considered a motive.

The suspects came from La Louviere and are not known to authorities for similar acts, Verheyen said.

Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo de-plored the “horrible news” in which “a community gathering to celebrate has been hit in the heart”, he wrote on Twitter.

De Croo was to visit the scene later on Sunday accompanied by Belgium’s King Philippe, the prime minister’s office said.

Belgian towns and villages host many street carnivals around the season of Lent, with the parades in Binche and Alost the most known, internationally.

Like Binche, the carnival of Strepy-Bracquegnies involves participants dressed up as “Gilles”, comical figures who are “called out” to the parade in the early hours. “I was walking by,” one witness, Theo, told RTBF news.

“I turned around and saw a car running into the troop. It came very fast and didn’t brake. It continued and it took a girl 100 metres further,” he said.

There are reports two people who were in the car have been arrested. In neighbouring Germany, a man in February 2020 rammed his car through a carnival procession, injuring dozens of bystanders including children.

Germany and other countries at the time had been on high alert for car ramming attacks since December 2016, when an Islamic State group sympathiser ploughed a truck through a Christmas market leaving 12 dead.

Germany has seen several such attacks since, with most carried out by people who were found to have psychological issues.—APP

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