No indications of a politically motived attack
A baby was among at least two people killed and several injured when a car tore through a pedestrian shopping street in the southwestern German city of Trier on Tuesday, police said, adding that the driver had been arrested.
Police were not immediately able to say why the driver of a silver SUV had targeted the pedestrian-only zone but security sources told DPA news agency there were no indications of a politically motived attack.
Trier mayor Wolfram Leibe said the driver, a 51-year-old German from the local area, appeared to have gone “on a rampage”.
Police gave an initial toll of at least two fatalities and several injured, but said the figures were likely to climb.
“The driver randomly ran over people,” said Franz-Dieter Ankner from Trier police, adding that the suspect was being questioned.
Malu Dreyer, premier of the state of Rhineland-Palatinate where Trier is located, said she was shocked that a baby was among those killed by the driver’s “brutal act”.
“This is a terrible day,” she told reporters, adding that her thoughts and prayers were with the child’s parents and all the other victims.
Witnesses had earlier described seeing people, including a young child in a stroller, being flung into the air as the car struck them.
With tears in his eyes, mayor Leibe recounted seeing a child’s shoe on the street near the body of a little girl.
“It’s a horror scene,” he said. “Many people are traumatised.”
The incident started around 1:50 pm (1250 GMT) and ended within four minutes of the first emergency calls arriving, with police intercepting the driver after he turned right off a main shopping street.
Police said he had ploughed through the streets for about a kilometre, leaving behind a trail of destruction.
Officers sealed off the area and cleared people from the city centre. Emergency vehicles were still parked in the area as darkness fell.
Smartphone footage from an eyewitness showed the arrest of the driver, who was seen lying face down on the street pinned down by several officers next to the damaged SUV.
He was the sole occupant of the vehicle.
An unnamed man who said he was a former neighbour of the suspect told NTV that the driver had a history of psychological problems, as well as money worries and issues “with his father”.
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert on Twitter called the events in Trier “shocking”. He said the country’s thoughts were with the “relatives of the deceased, the many injured and with all those who are helping to care for those affected”.
Early footage from the scene showed stunned shoppers huddling outside stores festooned with Christmas decorations as sirens blared in the distance.
Debris from stalls and outdoor displays was strewn along a wide cobbled street.
Picturesque Trier, near the border with Luxembourg, traces its history back to the Roman Empire and is often called Germany’s oldest city.
Although Germany is grappling with a second coronavirus wave that has forced restaurants, bars, sports and cultural centres to close, retailers have been allowed to stay open and many people were out Christmas shopping.
“It’s lucky that the Christmas market has been cancelled because of corona, or it could have been much worse,” witness Frederic Fries told Welt TV.
The incident brought back memories of a truck rampage at a Berlin Christmas market that left 12 people dead in 2016, Germany’s deadliest Islamist attack to date.
In January 2019, a German man injured eight people when he drove into crowds on New Year’s Eve in the western cities of Bottrop and Essen. He was later taken into psychiatric care.
In April 2018, a German man ploughed his van into people seated outside a restaurant in the city of Muenster, killing five before shooting himself dead. Investigators later said he had mental health problems.