The blast occurred during peak-hour traffic on Bismarckstrasse, within sight of the Victory Column monument, leaving the front of the car severely dented after collided with another car, while debris was strewn a few metres away.
Eyewitnesses told Tagesspiegel that the driver initially managed to escape from the car but then collapsed due to his severe injuries. Attempts on the part of emergency services to resuscitate him proved futile. At 8.40 am he was announced dead. No one else was injured in the incident.
“We suspect that it was an act of homicide carried out by placing a bomb under the car,” Berlin prosecutors told Bild newspaper.
The Berliner Zeitung reports that the victim was Mesut T., a 43-year-old man.
Prosecutors confirmed to Bild that the victim had previous convictions for drug dealing, falsifying currency and illegal gambling.
Police say they believe the attackers came from the world of organized criminality. Earlier on Tuesday they said there was no indication terrorism was involved.
Es gibt derzeit keine Hinweise auf terroristischen Hintergrund der Tat.— Polizei Berlin (@polizeiberlin) March 15, 2016
Police have confirmed the victim was a 43-year-old man and say they are investigating whether he was the target of the explosion.
Die Identität des Toten ist geklärt, es handelt sich um einen 43-jährigen Mann. Ob die Tat dem Fahrer galt, muss noch geklärt werden.— Polizei Berlin (@polizeiberlin) March 15, 2016
Spiegel report he is from Berlin and had a previous criminal record in connection with drug dealing.
This has not been confirmed by police who say a homicide team are currently investigating the motive of the attack.
Broadcaster ARD filmed the wreckage.
Auto-Explosion in Berlin - 1 Mensch tot - Mordkommission ermittelt - Polizei geht von Sprengsatz aus pic.twitter.com/HRzv8kVMTn— tagesschau (@tagesschau) March 15, 2016
Police reported on Twitter that they were operating under the assumption that an explosive device had been the cause, adding that officers are currently at the scene to examine the vehicle for explosives.
Unsere Entschärfer gehen an das Fahrzeug ran und überprüfen es auf weitere Sprengmittel.— Polizei Berlin (@polizeiberlin) March 15, 2016
The Associated Press tweeted that police said the explosion was likely caused by a bomb.
BREAKING: German police: Car explosion that killed driver in Berlin likely caused by bomb— The Associated Press (@AP) March 15, 2016
Police initially emphatically warned people in the area to stay away from the car, remain indoors, close their windows and stay off of balconies.
At about 11.30am, police said that they found the car to no longer be dangerous and said it was safe for people to once again open their doors and go on their balconies.
BITTE treten Sie von den Balkonen zurück!!!— Polizei Berlin (@polizeiberlin) March 15, 2016
The area around the Deutsche Oper U-Bahn station where the car exploded has been closed off.
Hier nochmal die Durchsage der Kolleg. vor Ort. Die Entschärfer treten jetzt an den Wagen heran. pic.twitter.com/FQOwSZCCiD— Polizei Berlin (@polizeiberlin) March 15, 2016