Belgium mourns after car kills six in carnival crash

Belgium mourned on Sunday after a car ploughed into a crowd of early morning carnival-goers, killing six people and injuring dozens of others as authorities ruled out an act of terrorism.

The tragedy took place around 5:00 am (0400 GMT) as the carnival of Strepy-Bracquegnies, a district in the former coal-mining town of La Louviere, was getting under way.

Investigators said the suspects were born in 1988 and 1990 and came from La Louviere, a town near the French border in Belgium’s rust belt, and were not known to authorities for similar acts.

Blood test results were expected on Monday and “will allow us to say if they have consumed drugs,” he told RTBF news. 

– From ‘Folklore to horror’ –

Like Binche, the carnival of Strepy-Bracquegnies involves participants dressed up as “Gilles”, extravagantly attired comical figures who are “called out” to the parade in the early hours.

When they reached a road, “a car coming from behind at high speed literally pulverised a large number of people,” he said at the news conference.

Fabrice Collignon, a Belgian TV presenter, told AFP the procession was joyfully under way when in a “snap of the fingers we went from fun and folklore to absolute horror.”

Another witness, Theo, told RTBF news he saw a car that moved “very fast and didn’t brake”.

Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo and other ministers rushed to the scene along with Belgium’s King Philippe, who met first responders in the Strepy-Bracquegnies sports hall, where the morning’s carnival procession began.

The RIAAL La Louviere football team said that one of the victims was a steward at the club and that a match scheduled later on Sunday was cancelled.

In neighbouring France, President Emmanuel Macron “assured the Belgian prime minister of his support and friendship after this tragedy”, his office said.

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.


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