A 50-year-old German man has been arrested on suspicion of carrying out a xenophobic attack after driving his car into a group of people, including Syrian and Afghan citizens.
Four people were wounded, one of whom remains in hospital.
German police said the man rammed his car into pedestrians in a crowded plaza in the north-west town of Bottrop, just after midnight on New Year’s Eve.
He reportedly made racist comments when he was later stopped and arrested.
Police said the driver had earlier tried to mow down one pedestrian, who managed to get out of the way. Later, he also targeted a group of people at a bus stop in the nearby city of Essen, they said.
"A German man deliberately drove into crowds of people... that were largely made up of foreigners," Herbert Reul, interior minister of North Rhine-Westphalia state, said. "There was a clear intention by this man to kill foreigners."
An earlier statement from police and prosecutors said: "Investigators suspect it was a deliberate attack that may be linked to the xenophobic views of the driver. In addition, investigators have preliminary information about a mental illness of the driver.