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Six killed as car driven into carnival crowd in southern Belgium — authorities

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By Euronews  with AFP
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The scene near a gymnasium where witnesses and relatives of victims are received after a car crashed into a crowd of carnival-goers in La Louvière, March 20, 2022.
The scene near a gymnasium where witnesses and relatives of victims are received after a car crashed into a crowd of carnival-goers in La Louvière, March 20, 2022.   -   Copyright  KENZO TRIBOUILLARD / AFP

Six people have been killed in Belgium after a car was driven into a crowd gathering to take part in a carnival on Sunday morning in a village near the town of La Louvière, authorities said.

Another 26 people are said to have been injured. Prosecutors say two people have been arrested and that the incident is not thought to be linked to terrorism at this stage.

"In the current state of the investigation, we know that a vehicle drove into a group (...) and that we regret there were six deaths, 26 injured", Damien Verheyen, Deputy Public Prosecutor in the city of Mons, told a news conference in late morning. He added that the lives of 10 of the injured were "currently in danger".

"The car was occupied by two people who were arrested," he said, specifying that they were from La Louvière and born in 1988 and 1990 respectively. He confirmed that a terrorist motive was excluded for the moment.

"A car travelling at high speed drove into the crowd that had gathered to attend (the carnival)," Jacques Gobert, the mayor of the southern Belgian city told the Belga news agency earlier.

The incident happened around 0500 CET (0400 GMT) in Strépy-Bracquegnies, a village near the industrial town of La Louvière, the authorities said.

An earlier estimated tally of four dead was raised to six after 1100 CET.

According to a press release from the mayor's office, a group of about a hundred people had just left a sports hall heading for the centre of the village when a vehicle drove into the crowd.

"What was supposed to be a convivial party has turned into a tragedy. We are monitoring the situation closely," tweeted Interior Minister Annelies Verlinden. "My sincere condolences to the families and friends of those who died and were injured in the incident that occurred this morning in Strépy."

"Dreadful news from Strépy-Bracquegnies. A community gathering to celebrate was struck right in the heart," tweeted Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo. "My thoughts are with the victims and their loved ones. All my support also goes to the emergency services for their help and assistance provided."