Wednesday 9/22/21
UPDATE

Suspected Islamist held after series of crashes on Berlin motorway

Prior to the attack, the Iraqi suspect posted photos of the car on his Facebook page accompanied by religious statements written in Arabic in which he uses the term "martyr."

Prosecutors also noted that the 30-year-old suspect, who has been detained, suffers from mental health problems.

19 August 2020, Berlin: A forensic officer works on the Berlin A100 urban motorway after a car carrying an alleged ammunition box made an accident at the Alboinstrasse exit. Photo: Paul Zinken/dpa.
A forensic officer works on the motorway after a car carrying an alleged ammunition box made an accident. Photo: Paul Zinken/dpa.

A suspected Islamist extremist was detained in Germany after a series of crashes on a Berlin motorway which are being treated as a deliberate attack, police and prosecutors said on Wednesday.

Six people were injured in the attack, which occurred on Tuesday evening on a stretch of highway near central Berlin, three of them seriously, according to a spokesman for the fire brigade.

"According to what we currently know, it was an Islamist-motivated attack," a spokesman for the public prosecutor in the German capital said.

However, he also noted that there was evidence that the 30-year-old Iraqi suspect suffers from mental health problems.

There is no indication currently that the man was a member of a terrorist organization, investigators said.

Security sources told however that the man had been in contact with someone known to authorities as a dangerous Islamist.

That individual has been linked to Islamic State, according to the local Tagesspiegel newspaper.

The suspected attacker is to appear before a judge later Wednesday to be arraigned on charges of attempted murder, according to a joint statement from police and prosecutors.

19 August 2020, Berlin: A broken car and a destroyed motorcycle stand on the Berlin A100 urban motorway after the car which carrying an alleged ammunition box made an accident at the Alboinstrasse exit. Photo: Paul Zinken/dpa.

A broken car and a destroyed motorcycle on the Berlin urban motorway. Photo: Paul Zinken/dpa.

"Targetted attacks"

They described the crashes as "targeted attacks, especially on motorcyclists, with sometimes serious consequences.

"Statements made by the accused after his actions suggest a religious-Islamist motive. There are also indications of psychological instability," the statement added.

One of the seriously injured people was a firefighter who had been on his way home from work, a fire brigade spokesman said.

It was not clear whether the man had been driving a car or riding a motorbike at the time.

The suspect is being investigated on suspicion of attempted murder on several counts, the Berlin public prosecutor's spokesman said.

"Under the circumstances, we do not consider this to have been a chance accident," he added.

19 August 2020, Berlin: Forensic officers work on the Berlin A100 urban motorway after a car carrying an alleged ammunition box made an accident at the Alboinstrasse exit. Photo: Paul Zinken/dpa.

Forensic officers working on the Berlin A100 urban motorway. Photo: Paul Zinken/dpa.

A metal ammunition box

Police said the man, when stopped, claimed to have a "dangerous item" in a box that he was carrying in the vehicle.

Technicians assessed a metal box for carrying ammunition and shot at it with a high-pressure water gun, a police spokeswoman said. However, it was found to contain only tools and nothing suspicious.

No traces of explosives were found in the vehicle.

Prior to the attack, the Iraqi national had posted photos of the car he had been driving on his Facebook page. The images were accompanied by religious statements written in Arabic in which he uses the term "martyr."

After the crashes, the badly damaged vehicle was seen at the motorway exit heading east towards Berlin's Tempelhof neighbourhood. The road was strewn with wreckage and a motorbike helmet.

One motorbike was wedged into the battered bonnet of the car, having apparently been hit with significant force.

Parts of the motorway had still been blocked on Wednesday morning due to the police operation at the scene, although most of the closures have since been lifted.

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