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CRIME

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

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.

Update: Two killed as car hits shoppers in German city of Trier
Emergency services at the scene in Trier. Photo: DPA

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

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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CRIME

One injured in school shooting in Bremerhaven

A 21-year-old gunman opened fire at a secondary school in northern Germany on Thursday, badly injuring a female member of staff before being arrested, police said.

One injured in school shooting in Bremerhaven

The incident happened at the Lloyd Gymnasium school in the centre of Bremerhaven, a city on Germany’s North Sea coast, on Thursday morning. 

“The armed person has been arrested and is in police custody,” police said in a statement. The injured woman was not a pupil, police said.

They said the suspect had entered the school building and fired at a female member of staff, who was “seriously injured”.

The alarm was quickly raised and police said they detained the suspect at a nearby location soon after and had seized his weapon at the scene.

The injured woman is being treated in hospital.

A video circulating on social media and German news sites appeared to capture the moment the gunman was arrested.

A man dressed in black is seen lying face down on a street corner, with a weapon next to him, before being handcuffed by officers.

But there was no immediate confirmation of reports the alleged weapon was a crossbow.

Bremerhaven police tweeted in the morning that a large deployment was under way in the city centre and asked residents to avoid the Mayor-Martin-Donandt square and surrounding streets, in the vicinity of the Lloyd secondary school.

Local news site Nord24 said a school pupil had heard shots being fired and called the police. Pupils barricaded themselves in their classrooms.

Police launched a large-scale operation and cordoned off the area around the school while they carried out inquiries. 

By mid-afternoon, police said special forces had completed their search and the last people had left the building.

Authorities set up a phone hotline for concerned parents. Many parents had gathered in front of the school after being alerted by their children.

Pupils and staff are receiving psychological counselling.

Local media said only around 200 people were on the school grounds, fewer than normal because of exam times.

In a separate incident on Thursday, police in the eastern city of Leipzig said they had detained a 21-year-old student still at secondary school after being tipped off by Snapchat that he had posted pictures of himself with a gun and made unspecified threats.

The US social media platform alerted German authorities, prompting Leipzig police to take action.

 A police spokesman said that the 21-year-old did not pose a real threat, however, and only possessed an airsoft gun, a replica firearm that uses non-lethal, usually plastic, pellets.

‘Strict gun laws’

School shootings are relatively rare in Germany, a country with some of the strictest gun laws in Europe. But a recent spate has rattled the population.

Last week, investigators in Germany’s city of Essen said they foiled a school bomb assault, as they arrested a 16-year-old who is suspected to have been planning a “Nazi terror attack”.

Police in Essen stormed the teen’s room overnight, taking him into custody and uncovering 16 “pipe bombs”, as well as anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim material.

In January, an 18-year-old student opened fire in a lecture hall at Heidelberg University in southwestern Germany, killing a young woman and
injuring three others before fleeing the scene and turning the weapon on himself.

In 2009, a former pupil killed nine students, three teachers and three passers-by in a school shooting at Winnenden, in the German state of Baden-Württemberg. The gunman then killed himself.

In 2002, a 19-year-old former student, apparently in revenge for having been expelled, shot dead 16 people including 12 teachers and two students at a school in the central German city of Erfurt. He too then killed himself.

The Winnenden and Erfurt massacres were carried out with legal weapons and spurred Germany to tighten gun laws.

The country currently requires anyone under 25 to pass a psychiatric exam before applying for a gun licence.

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