Germany tightens carnival security after driver with ‘dead’ expression injures 60

By Joseph Nasr

VOLKMARSEN, Germany (Reuters) – Germany increased security at some carnival processions on Tuesday after a local man plowed his car into a parade in the western German town of Volkmarsen, injuring around 60 people, including at least 18 children.

The incident on Monday shook Germans still struggling to take in last week’s racist gun attack on two bars in the town of Hanau which left 11 people dead.

The driver was detained at the carnival on suspicion of attempted homicide and was being treated for his own injuries.

An emergency responder said bystanders had punched the man while he tried to choke her as she leaned into the car to remove the key.

“He didn’t say a word. He looked at you empty and dead and seemed so satisfied,” Lea-Sophie Schloemer told Welt television. “It was really unnerving how satisfied he seemed.”

The prosecutors’ spokesman said the driver had not yet been in a fit state to be questioned, but was not drunk at the time of the incident. Initial tests for alcohol were negative but that was not a final assessment and there were as yet no results from the drug test.

The motive was still unclear. “We are investigating all possibilities,” he said.

He said earlier there was no sign the investigation would be handed to national prosecutors, suggesting they did not see a political motive.

While some carnival processions in the state of Hesse, home to Volkmarsen, were canceled, others were due to take place in the region on Tuesday. A police spokesman said security would be intensified.

Rose Monday is the height of the carnival season in Catholic areas of Germany, especially in the Rhineland where tens of thousands of people dress up, drink alcohol and line the streets to watch decorated floats that often mock public figures.

Prosecutors said there was no concrete reason to think the risk of attacks at parades had increased, but they urged organizers to review their security arrangements and adjust them if necessary.

Security at public events in Germany has been tightened since a Tunisian man with Islamist militant ties plowed a truck into a Christmas market in Berlin in 2016, killing 12 people. He was later shot dead by Italian police after fleeing.

LIFE-THREATENING INJURIES

A police spokesman said he could not rule out that some of the injured in Volkmarsen were in a life-threatening condition.

Police had detained the driver, a 29-year-old German from the town who had been driving a silver Mercedes car, and he would appear before an investigating magistrate as soon as his condition allowed, state prosecutors said.

“There are so far no indications of politically-motivated criminality,” Bild newspaper cited an investigator as saying.

“But we think that the perpetrator acted with intent, and that psychological problems may have played a role,” the investigator added.

Prosecutors confirmed that a second man had been detained at the scene on Monday and was accused of filming the incident. The spokesman said prosecutors were investigating whether the man had links to the driver, including checking phone records.

The street where the incident happened in the center of the small town was still cordoned off by police on Tuesday and several stores in the area were closed. Residents were in shock.

“It’s terrible. I don’t know how somebody could do this, especially to children,” said 58-year-old Rainer Bellmann.

Locals told Reuters that police had searched two homes in the town, including one apartment near to the scene that a police officer said was the home of relatives of the man.

(Additional reporting by Hans Seidenstuecker in Frankfurt, Michelle Martin and Reuters Television; editing by Philippa Fletcher; Writing by Madeline Chambers and Emma Thomasson; Editing by Andrew Heavens and Philippa Fletcher)

Defying critics, Trump salutes military in pomp-filled July 4 celebration

U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump react as they arrive for the "Salute to America" event during Fourth of July Independence Day celebrations at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., U.S., July 4, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

By Jeff Mason

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – With U.S. fighter jets flying overhead, President Donald Trump praised the military and reveled in a show of pomp and patriotism on Thursday in a celebration of Independence Day that critics accused him of turning into a political event.

A Bradley Fighting Vehicle is seen during the "Salute to America" Fourth of July Independence Day celebration at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, U.S., July 4, 2019. REUTERS/Tom Brenner

A Bradley Fighting Vehicle is seen during the “Salute to America” Fourth of July Independence Day celebration at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, U.S., July 4, 2019. REUTERS/Tom Brenner

Trump, a Republican who was inspired to stage the flashy affair after seeing a similar display in France, dismissed concerns ahead of the ceremony about the expense and militaristic overtones of the event outside the 97-year-old Lincoln Memorial, a symbol of national unity.

“Our nation is stronger today than it ever was before. It is its strongest now,” Trump said from a platform in front of the famous memorial, echoing a theme he uses at campaign rallies.

Flanked by Bradley fighting vehicles, Trump otherwise steered clear of divisive political rhetoric, in a departure from the majority of his speeches. At times, an enthusiastic crowd could be heard chanting: “USA! USA! USA!”

Trump, 73, praised American military might despite having himself avoided the draft during the Vietnam War with bone spurs in his feet. With well-planned choreography, he told stories about each military branch before separate, dramatic flyovers of their respective military aircraft.

U.S. President Donald Trump, first lady Melania Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, Acting Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford attend the “Salute to America” event at the Lincoln Memorial during Fourth of July Independence Day celebrations in Washington, D.C., U.S., July 4, 2019. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

“We celebrate our history, our people, and the heroes who proudly defend our flag: the brave men and women of the United States military,” Trump said. “For over 65 years, no enemy Air Force has managed to kill a single American soldier. Because the skies belong to the United States of America.”

Not all the choreography appeared to go off as planned.

A flyover by Air Force One, which Trump had teased earlier in the day on Twitter, occurred unannounced and without fanfare. But a low and spectacular flyover by six F-18s known as the “Blue Angels” at the conclusion of Trump’s speech thrilled the crowd. Some people shouted “Four More Years!” in support of the president.

Trump paid tribute to the U.S. Border Patrol and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, two agencies that have played leading roles in carrying out his tough immigration policies.

He cited as great Americans both Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass, African-Americans who campaigned for the abolition of slavery more than 100 years ago. That praise could draw criticism as Trump’s administration in May decided to keep Tubman’s image off the $20 bill. He previously raised doubts about his knowledge of Douglass by speaking of the former slave in the present tense as ”somebody who’s done an amazing job.”

U.S. Air Force does a fly past as U.S. President Donald Trump speaks at the "Salute to America" event at the Lincoln Memorial during Fourth of July Independence Day celebrations in Washington, D.C., U.S., July 4, 2019. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

U.S. Air Force does a fly past as U.S. President Donald Trump speaks at the “Salute to America” event at the Lincoln Memorial during Fourth of July Independence Day celebrations in Washington, D.C., U.S., July 4, 2019. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

MILLIONS OF DOLLARS, WORRIES ABOUT CROWDS

Earlier in the day thousands of supporters wearing Trump’s signature “Make America Great Again” hats, along with opponents questioning the cost of the event, poured into the U.S. capital despite scorching temperatures and intermittent rain, while a diapered “Baby Trump” balloon sat next to a banner calling Trump a traitor.

Protesters burned a U.S. flag in front of the White House.

Ahead of the speech, Democrats accused the president of staging an out-of-place campaign rally, aware he has a history of veering off script with sharp partisan attacks even at events that are not meant to be overtly political.

Trump supporters and opponents carried American flags and wore red, white and blue outfits.

“I think what Trump’s doing with the tanks, all the flyovers, I think it’s great,” said Brandon Lawrence, his face painted with the colors of the American flag.

Some at the White House had worried about the crowd size, according to an administration official.

In January 2017 Trump fumed about reports that the crowd at his inauguration ceremony in front of the Capitol was smaller than it was for President Barack Obama.

Perhaps with the crowd size in mind, Trump sent out tweets urging people to attend and saying the event would be “one of the biggest celebrations in the history of our Country.” As it happened, the crowd lined both sides of the reflecting pool in front of the memorial, and Trump later called it a “great crowd.”

Opponents were not impressed.

“This is costing us millions and millions of dollars. We the taxpayers are paying for it, for Donald Trump to use our military as a prop. And that’s just not right,” said Medea Benjamin, co-founder of the women-led peace group Code Pink, before the event.

Republican political groups were given prime tickets for Trump’s speech, and the Washington Post reported that the U.S. National Park Service diverted $2.5 million in park entrance fees to help pay for the event.

Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders weighed in with criticism: “This is what authoritarians do: @realDonaldTrump is taking $2.5 million away from our National Park Service to glorify himself with a spectacle of military tanks rolling through Washington,” he wrote in a tweet.

Former Vice President Joe Biden, leading in opinion polls in the race for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, said in Iowa: “Donald Trump, I believe, is incapable of celebrating what makes America great, because I don’t think he gets it.”

Trump played down the expense.

“The cost of our great Salute to America tomorrow will be very little compared to what it is worth. We own the planes, we have the pilots, the airport is right next door (Andrews), all we need is the fuel,” he posted on Twitter on Wednesday. “We own the tanks and all. Fireworks are donated by two of the greats. Nice!” Andrews is the name of a nearby military base.

The July 4th holiday celebrates the U.S. founders’ declaring independence from Britain in 1776.

(Reporting by Jeff Mason; additional reporting by Steve Holland, Greg Savoy, Valerie Volcovici, Lawrence Hurley and Makini Brice; editing by Howard Goller)

Putin, newly inaugurated, reviews Russia’s ‘invincible weapons’ on Red Square

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu salutes as he takes part in the Victory Day parade, marking the 73rd anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany in World War Two, at Red Square in Moscow, Russia May 9, 2018. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

By Christian Lowe and Andrew Osborn

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia’s Vladimir Putin watched advanced jets carrying a hypersonic missile he has touted as invincible scream over Red Square on Wednesday, days after the start of his fourth presidential term.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu attend the Victory Day parade, marking the 73rd anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany in World War Two, at Red Square in Moscow, Russia May 9, 2018. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu attend the Victory Day parade, marking the 73rd anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany in World War Two, at Red Square in Moscow, Russia May 9, 2018. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

Part of an annual event marking the Soviet Union’s World War Two victory over the Nazis, Putin looked on as thousands of troops marched past him and columns of tanks rumbled across the famous square in a show of military might reminiscent of those displayed during the Cold War.

Putin reviewed the parade from a tribune packed with Soviet war veterans, some of whom wore rows of campaign medals and clutched red roses. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in Moscow for talks on Syria, was also present, as was Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic. Hollywood actor Steven Seagal, who was given a passport by Putin in 2016, was also a guest.

The authorities, backed by state media, use the event to boost patriotic feeling and show the world and potential buyers of military hardware how a multi-billion dollar modernization program is changing the face of the Russian military.

Putin, whose relations with the West are on a hostile trajectory, has said he does not want an arms race while warning potential enemies that his country has developed a new generation of invincible weapons to protect itself just in case.

“We remember the tragedies of the two world wars, about the lessons of history which do not allow us to become blind. The same old ugly traits are appearing along with new threats: egoism, intolerance, aggressive nationalism and claims to exceptionalism,” Putin told the parade.

“We understand the full seriousness of those threats,” added Putin, who complained about what he said were unacceptable attempts to rewrite history while saying Russia was open to talks on global security if they helped keep world peace.

Russian servicemen march during the Victory Day parade, marking the 73rd anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany in World War Two, at Red Square in Moscow, Russia May 9, 2018. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin

Russian servicemen march during the Victory Day parade, marking the 73rd anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany in World War Two, at Red Square in Moscow, Russia May 9, 2018. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin

Putin has sharply increased military spending over the 18 years he has dominated Russian politics, handed the Russian military significant policy-making clout, and deployed Russian forces in Ukraine and Syria, stoking tensions with the West.

As commander-in-chief, he has also at times donned military uniform himself and been filmed at the controls of a strategic bomber and on the conning tower of a submarine in photo opportunities designed to boost his man of action image.

Weapons displayed on Red Square included Russia’s Yars mobile intercontinental nuclear missile launcher, its Iskander-M ballistic missile launchers, and its advanced S-400 air defense missile system, which Moscow has deployed in Syria to protect its forces.

Russian army MiG-29 jet fighters of the Strizhi (Swifts) and Su-30 jet fighters of the Russkiye Vityazi (Russian Knights) aerobatic teams fly in formation during the Victory Day parade, marking the 73rd anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany in World War Two, in central Moscow, Russia May 9, 2018. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

Russian army MiG-29 jet fighters of the Strizhi (Swifts) and Su-30 jet fighters of the Russkiye Vityazi (Russian Knights) aerobatic teams fly in formation during the Victory Day parade, marking the 73rd anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany in World War Two, in central Moscow, Russia May 9, 2018. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

‘INVINCIBLE MISSILE’

The first public outing of the Kinjal (Dagger) hypersonic missile, carried by advanced MiG-31K interceptor jets, was one of several world premieres for Russian weapons.

Putin disclosed the Kinjal’s existence in March along with other missile systems he touted as unbeatable, describing how it could evade any enemy defenses.

Russian media have said it can hit targets up to 2,000 km (1,250 miles) distant with nuclear or conventional warheads and that the missiles have already been deployed in Russia’s southern military district.

Russia’s most advanced fifth generation Su-57 stealth fighter, which has undergone testing in Syria, also took part in the parade for the first time, as did an unmanned armored reconnaissance and infantry support vehicle, the Uran-9.

Armed with a 30mm automatic cannon, a machine gun, anti-tank missiles and a rocket launcher, it looks like something out of a Hollywood science fiction film.

An unmanned de-mining vehicle, the Uran-6, was also put on show, as were Russia’s latest military drones and an armored vehicle designed to support tanks on the battlefield dubbed “The Terminator” by its maker.

An advanced Russian military snowmobile fitted with a machine gun, the Berkut, built to bolster Moscow’s Arctic ambitions, also traversed the cobbled square.

The Moscow parade was one of many which took place across Russia on Wednesday involving a total of 55,000 troops, 1,200 weapons systems and 150 war planes in 28 Russian cities.

Some politicians in former Soviet republics and satellite states regard the parade as crude sabre-rattling by a resurgent Russia they say poses a threat to Europe’s security. Russia dismisses such allegations as nonsense.

(Writing by Andrew Osborn; additional reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin; Editing by Richard Balmforth)

At least 38 killed after Haiti bus plows into parade

A man looks at a bus, which drove into a parade of pedestrians, parked in the police station of Gonaives, Haiti, March 12, 2017. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares

PORT-AU-PRINCE (Reuters) – At least 38 people were killed and about a dozen injured in northern Haiti late on Saturday after a bus drove into a parade of pedestrians while fleeing from an accident, civil protection authorities said on Sunday.

The bus, which was traveling from Cap Haitien to the capital Port-au-Prince, initially hit two people in a town outside Gonaives in northern Haiti, killing one, said Joseph Faustin, civil protection head in the Artibonite department.

The bus driver then fled and crashed into three “rara” parades in Mapou, about 5 km (3 miles) away, Faustin said.

Rara parades, which usually take place around Easter, are groupings of musicians playing traditional instruments who are often joined by passers-by.

In total, 34 people were killed at the scene and an another four people died in hospital, said Fred Henry, the area’s deputy representative, who added that the incident had occurred around 4 a.m.

“Usually the drivers involved in such accidents don’t stop because they are afraid they might be killed [in reprisal],” Henry said.

It was not immediately clear what caused the accident.

The driver and passengers on the bus were taken to the police station, said Patrick Cherilus, a Civil Protection spokesman for Artibonite.

They have since been released and the bus driver has fled, said Jean Bazlais Bornelus, the police chief for the area.

After the accident, other musicians and people in the parade began hurling rocks at the bus and passing vehicles, injuring other people, said Albert Moulion, the Ministry of the Interior’s spokesman.

Haitian roads are dangerous and chaotic, with few rules observed by pedestrians, motorcyclists and drivers.

President Jovenel Moise called for an investigation into the incident.

“The head of state sends … sincere condolences to the victims’ families and loved ones,” he added.

(Reporting by Makini Brice and Joseph Guy Delva; Editing by Christine Murray and Sandra Maler)