Berlin motorway crashes were an Islamic extremist attack, prosecutors say

A mangled front end of one of the cars caught up in the incident. Credit: AP

A number of car crashes on a Berlin highway was part of an Islamic extremist attack, German prosecutors have said.

Six people in total were injured, three severely, when a 30-year-old Iraqi man allegedly drove into several vehicles along different parts of a busy highway in the German capital.

Among the three severely injured people, one is in life-threatening condition, German news agency dpa reported.

“According to the current state of our investigation we assume this was an Islamist-motivated attack,” Berlin's senator for the interior, Andreas Geisel, said.

“A religiously motivated background cannot be excluded.”

There were also indications that the man was suffering from psychological problems, according to dpa.

“The fact that the suspect was possibly suffering from psychological problems does not make this issue any easier,” Geisel added.

“If personal problems mix with religiously loaded ideas, this can lead to uncontrollable acts - yesterday's events have shown in a very painful way how vulnerable our society is.”

Tuesday crashes, at three different locations, happened during rush hour shortly before 7pm.

They led to a complete closure of one of the city’s main traffic highways.

Local media reported that the man later stopped on the highway and put a box on the roof of his car claiming it had explosives inside. Specialists opened the box and found only tools.

Several media reported that the man shouted “allahu akbar” or “God is great” as he got out of his car. The Bild daily reported that he also shouted: “Nobody gets closer, or you will all die.”

The suspect then rolled out a prayer carpet and started praying, daily paper Tagesspiegel reported.

The car was involved in several crashes in Berlin. Credit: AP

A police officer of Arabic immigrant background then approached the man, talked to him in Arabic, pulled him away from the car and detained him, the paper reported. According to Tagesspiegel, the man is known to Berlin police. He was born in Baghdad in 1990 and lived in a refugee home in Berlin.

In 2018, he was detained for injuring others and taken to a mental institution for a short time, Tagesspiegel reported.

Investigators did not reveal the man's identity, as is customary in Germany, but he is being investigated for three cases of attempted murder.

Dpa reported that the suspect allegedly made references to his plans on Facebook before the attack. He posted photos of the car that he later used in the attack, as well as religious writings, it said.

Police officers investigate on the city motorway A100. Credit: AP

The incident led to long traffic jams Tuesday evening. Some 300 people were stuck on the highway for hours and were getting support from the German Red Cross, the Berlin fire department tweeted Tuesday night.

Police and prosecutors said they were investigating if the suspect was linked to any terrorist group but had not found any indications of that yet.

One of the three was a firefighter going home from work, Geisel said. It was not clear if he was the one who is in life-threatening condition.

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