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Car hits crowd watching Dutch queen, kills 5

APELDOORN, Netherlands – A Dutch driver careened through police barriers and plowed into a crowd of merrymakers cheering their popular queen Thursday, in a premeditated assault on the royal family that killed five bystanders and injured 12, authorities said.

The speeding car, already dented apparently from catapulting bystanders into the air, passed within a few meters (yards) of the open-topped bus carrying Queen Beatrix and her family down a parade route, then smashed into a stone monument.

Car hits crowd watching Dutch queen, kills 5

Prince Willem Alexander (C) and Princess Maxima (2nd L), and other members of the royal family watch from a bus after a car ploughed into a parade on the national Queen's Day holiday in the Dutch city of Apeldoorn April 30, 2009. Netherlands' Queen Beatrix is pictured at bottom left in the red hat. A Dutchman deliberately drove his car towards an open bus carrying Queen Beatrix and her family on Thursday, killing five people and injuring 12 in a crowd watching the parade. [Agencies] more photos

"I think that it has become clear that this happened with premeditation," Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende said.

Prosecutors said the driver, badly injured and still in his crumpled car, acknowledged targeting the queen and her family.

"The man said that his action was aimed at the royal family," said prosecutor Ludo Goossens.

The driver, whose name was not released, "is formally suspected of ... an attack on members of the royal house and manslaughter or murder," Goossens said, and he could face life in prison.

The motive for the attack was unclear. Dutch media, citing neighbors, said the assailant recently was fired from his job and was to be evicted from his home. Police identified him as a 38-year-old Dutch man with no history of mental illness or police record, but they would not release his name.

Officials in Apeldoorn said the driver had a map of the queen's route.

Celebrations were canceled for Queen's Day, the national holiday that was to draw millions of people to street dances, picnics and outdoor parties under sunny skies around the country. Flags were lowered to half staff. The Dutch Embassy in Washington canceled a scheduled reception.

A shaken Queen Beatrix extended her sympathies to the victims in a brief nationally televised address. "What began as a great day has ended in a terrible tragedy that has shocked us all deeply," she said.

The driver apparently acted alone and was not linked to any terrorist or ideological group. No explosives were found in his car or in his home, said Goossens.

"From initial contact with police before the suspect was removed from the car ... we have reason to believe it was a deliberate action," Goossens told reporters.

The driver apparently tried to intercept the bus as it turned a corner to a road leading to the gates of the Het Loo palace a few hundred meters (yards) from the intersection in this eastern Dutch town.

Though the sequence of events was still murky, he apparently crashed his small black car through two sets of police barriers, smashing his windscreen and damaging the front of the vehicle even before slamming into the monument.

The final few seconds were captured on video and film by news teams following the royal family in a press bus.


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