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Death toll in Belgian carnival tragedy rises to six

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The death toll from a vehicle being driven at high speed into a group of Belgian carnival performers has risen to six.

The incident, which also seriously injured at least 10 others, occurred as performers were preparing a parade for the Strepy carnival in the southern Belgium village of Strepy-Bracquegnies about 5am, local time, on Sunday.

Authorities said at a press conference in the village, which is about 48 kilometres south of Brussels, that the incident did not appear to be a militant attack.

“At this stage, there are no elements to suggest that the attack had a terrorist motive,” prosecutor Damien Verheyen told a news conference.

Police also denied earlier media reports the car was involved in a high-speed chase.

Police set up a security perimeter around the area where a car ran into a group of carnival goers in Strepy-Bracquegnies, Belgium on Sunday. Photo: AFP/Getty

The two people in the car, which was later intercepted, were detained.

Police said they were local people in their 30s and were not previously known to police.

Ramming vehicles into crowds has become more common as a weapon used by militants in Europe and white supremacists in the United States because such attacks are inexpensive, easy to organise and hard for authorities to prevent, experts say.

French language media outlet RTBF reported that the group of performers had just left the town’s Omnisports hall to go, via the Rue des Canadiens, towards the centre when the collision happened.

Jacques Gobert, mayor of the neighbouring town of La Louviere, said between 150 and 200 people were gathered to get ready for the annual folklore parade, involving costumes and drums, when the vehicle appeared.

“A speeding car drove into the crowd … The driver then continued on his way,” Mr Gobert said.

It was the first time the carnival had taken place in two years after it was cancelled in 2020 and 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Belgium has sought to root out people suspected of militant links over the past seven years.

A Brussels-based Islamic State cell was involved in attacks on Paris in 2015 that killed 130 people and on Brussels in 2016 in which 32 died.

-with AAP

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