A man who was born in Iraq used a car to mow over motorcyclists along a highway in Berlin late on Tuesday, in what German officials are already terming a terror attack.
Andreas Geisel, Berlin’s Senator for the Interior, stated “According to the current state of our investigation we assume this was an Islamist-motivated attack. A religiously motivated background cannot be excluded,” according to a report from the Associated Press.
Six individuals were severely injured, with three of the victims suffering “severe” injuries in the attack. The 30-year old Iraqi plowed into several vehicles, intentionally slamming into motorcycles, on Tuesday evening, according to a joint statement issued by prosecutors and police in Berlin.
Taking place in three different locations, the attacks occurred around 7 PM, during Tuesday evening rush hour, on the BAB100 highway outside the German city. The attacks caused the main artery to be closed for police investigations.
A black Opel Astra was used in the attack. After the third collision, the driver stopped and placed an old ammunition box on the roof of the vehicle, and claimed that it had explosives inside, according to the police statement.
Some reports say that the perpetrator shouted “Allahu Akbar!” but that has not been confirmed. The German publication Bild also stated that he shouted “Nobody gets any closer or you will all die.”
The attacker then unrolled a prayer mat and began praying, according to a report from the daily paper Tagesspiegel. A German police officer who had an Arabic immigrant background then was able to approach the perpetrator, speaking to him in Arabic.
He was eventually able to take the man from the scene and arrest him, according to the paper.
Tagesspiegel reported that the alleged perpetrator is known to police in Berlin. Born in Baghdad, he is known to have lived in refugee housing in the city. He was detained in 2018, for “injuring others,” and transported to a mental institution for a short time, according to the newspaper.
As is German custom, the name of the alleged perpetrator was not released to the public but local German media is referring to him as “Sarmad D.” He may be charged in three cases of attempted murder.
Some have intimated that the man may again be suffering from “mental health issues.” Geisel said, however, that “The fact that the suspect was possibly suffering from psychological problems does not make this issue any easier.
“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.”
According to the AP report, the authorities are currently investigating any links the man may have had with known terror groups and if there may have been others involved in the attack. There are no indications of this being the case as of yet.
There have also been reports that the man referred to his attack plans on Facebook before the incident. The alleged perpetrator was said to have posted photos of the vehicle which he later used in the attack, as well as religious writings.
After the man was arrested, specially-trained officers opened the box with a strong jet of water, but there were only tools inside, not ammunition.
Among the three travelers who were severely injured, one is in extremely serious condition with severe head and back injuries. One of the three victims in the terror attack was a firefighter returning home from work.
In the AP report, Geisel was quoted as adding “If a car intentionally targets motorcycles, they don’t have a chance.”