Update: Two killed as car hits shoppers in German city of Trier

Update: Two killed as car hits shoppers in German city of Trier
Emergency services at the scene in Trier. Photo: DPA
At least two people were killed and several injured when a car drove through a 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 whether the SUV had deliberately targeted the pedestrian zone but Trier mayor Wolfram Leibe said the driver appeared to have gone “on a rampage”.

Police sealed off the area and urged people to stay away from the city centre.

Police spokesman Karl-Peter Jochem told reporters that the driver was a 51-year-old German from the Trier-Saarburg local area and that “the danger is over”.

He said the man ploughed through the pedestrianised high street in his SUV for about a kilometre before coming to a halt.

On Twitter police confirmed the arrest and initally said two people had been killed. “We have arrested one person and secured the car. According to initial information, two people are dead. Please continue to avoid the city centre,” Trier police tweeted.

A few minutes later, an updated tweet read: “Several dead and injured in Trier's inner city.”

“More info to come. Caring for the injured has absolute priority!”

Trier mayor Leibe was quoted by SWR as saying that the driver had caused “several deaths” and injuries”.

Speaking to reporters, with tears in his eyes, Leibe recounted the shock of seeing a child's shoe on the street near the body of a girl.

“It's a horror scene,” he said. “Many people are traumatised.”

Police spokesman Uwe Konz told AFP it remained unclear what exactly had happened, saying “the background still needs to be clarified”.

Christmas shopping

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Footage from the scene broadcast on NTV showed several police vans and other emergency vehicles parked on a wide shopping street in Trier, a large section of which appeared to have been cleared.

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 are out doing their Christmas shopping

Shoppers were seen huddling outside stores festooned with Christmas decorations, while sirens could be heard in the distance.

Eyewitnesses reported that people had been thrown into the air after the SUV drove into the pedestrian area, Welt said.

Parents were asked to pick up their children from schools in the inner city area, reported the Trierischer Volksfreund.

Photo: DPA

State premier of Rhineland-Palatinate, Malu Dreyer, expressed her horror at the fatal incident. Interior Minister Roger Lewentz made his way from Mainz to the scene of the incident. Dreyer was also expected there in the afternoon.

Steffen Seibert, spokesman for the federal government and Chancellor Angela Merkel wrote on Twitter: “What happened in Trier is shocking. Thoughts are with the relatives of the victims, with the numerous injured and with everyone who is on duty at this moment to care for those affected.”

Trier is a southwestern German city in the Moselle wine region located near Luxembourg in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate. It has around 110,600 residents.

Memories of recent incidents

Although the incident has not been confirmed as an attack, it brought back memories of the 2016 truck rampage at a Berlin Christmas market that left 12 people dead.

The driver, a failed Tunisian asylum seeker, was a supporter of the Islamic State jihadist group.

In August 2019, six people were injured in a series of motorway accidents in Berlin in what prosecutors described as a suspected Islamist attack.

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