by Deborah COLE
BERLIN, Germany (AFP) — A stolen truck ploughed into cars in the center of the German city of Limburg on Monday leaving several people injured, police said, adding that the driver had been detained.
“Based on what we have learned and several witness accounts, the man seized control of the truck at about 5:20 pm (1520 GMT),” police said in a statement.
Soon after, the truck slammed into cars waiting at a stoplight near the main railway station of Limburg in Hesse state, “crushing them together”.
“Several people are being treated in hospital” and the driver, who is in custody, was slightly injured, police added.
German news agency DPA quoting regional police put the number of people hurt at 16 including one person in a critical condition.
Police said it was too soon to speculate about a motive.
“We currently do not have sufficient information about what was behind it,” they said.
“The investigation, including questioning witnesses and collecting evidence, is ongoing.”
Police conducted a major deployment of officers and vehicles, with a helicopter circling overhead in the city of 35,000, about an hour’s drive from the financial capital Frankfurt.
They urged users of social media not to jump to conclusions on the motive.
“We are not ruling anything out,” a spokesman for the state police force quoted by DPA said. “But we call on you: don’t take part in speculation!” the regional police wrote in several tweets.
‘Didn’t say a word’
The daily Frankfurter Neue Presse (FNP) quoted the rightful driver of the truck, who was not named, as saying: “A man dragged me out of my lorry.”
He said the man, in his 30s with short dark hair and a full beard, had yanked open the driver-side door and stared at him wide-eyed before forcing him out of the vehicle.
“I asked him ‘What do you want from me?’,” he told FNP. “He didn’t say a word.”
The newspaper quoted witnesses saying the truck then sped into the parked cars before coming to a stop several metres from the traffic light.
When the man behind the wheel of the white truck emerged from the crash, several passers-by provided first aid, FNP reported.
“The passers-by said the driver said ‘Allah’ several times” and spoke Arabic, FNP reported. Police did not confirm this account.
Bettina Yeisley from Limburg, whose office is directly next to the scene of the crash, told FNP that she heard a loud bang and ran out onto the street with colleagues.
They found the man sitting beneath a tree without knowing he had been driving.
“He was bleeding from the nose, his hands were bloody, his trousers torn. He said that everything hurt. I asked him his name and he said, ‘My name is Mohammed’.”
Germany has been on the alert following several jihadist attacks in recent years claimed by the Islamic State group.
The most deadly was committed in 2016 by 23-year-old Tunisian Anis Amri, who killed 12 people when he stole a truck and ploughed it through a Berlin Christmas market.
The Office for the Protection of the Constitution, Germany’s domestic security watchdog, warned in April of an increased risk posed by IS fighters returning from Syria and northern Iraq.
Its director Thomas Haldenwang said that an estimated 2,240 Islamists with “terrorist potential” were living in Germany.
Last Thursday in neighboring France, a Muslim convert who had reportedly started adopting increasingly radical beliefs stabbed four colleagues to death at Paris police headquarters.
© Agence France-Presse