At least four people were killed and 15 injured today when they were hit by a car in the southwestern German city of Trier, police said. Regional Premier Malu Dreyer said a baby was among those killed.
The driver, identified as a 51-year-old German man from the area, was arrested at the scene and the vehicle was impounded. He drove into a pedestrian area deliberately and appears to have hit people "at random", Karl-Peter Jochem, a spokesman for local police said.
Police said he would be questioned but that this would be "very difficult". He was behind the wheel of a silver SUV, which he managed to drive about one kilometre through the pedestrian zone before being rammed by police.
Rhineland-Palatinate state governor Malu Dreyer, who comes from Trier, said the dead included a young child and condemned it as a "brutal act."
"It was a really, really terrible day for my hometown," Dreyer told reporters after visiting the scene.
Police said the driver appeared to have plougheded into pedestrians indiscriminately as he drove through the city center shortly before 2pm.
Roger Lewentz, the state interior minister, commended security forces on their reaction, saying that they had stopped the car and taken the suspect into custody within four minutes of receiving the first call.
Footage from the scene showed people outside a shop apparently helping someone on the ground lying among scattered debris.
Mayor Wolfram Leibe told the SWR broadcaster that in addition to the four dead, 15 people had suffered serious injuries.
"I just walked downtown and it was awful. It was a sight of horror. There's a trainer lying there... the little girl it belonged to is dead," the mayor added, before tears prevented him from speaking further.
The driver was alone in the car, police said.
"I don't want to speculate, but all of us are asking ourselves … what drives a person to do something like this?" Leibe said. "Of course I don't have an answer to this question."
The area was being kept shut down until at least Wednesday morning for police to collect evidence, but there was no longer any danger, Leibe said.
In a video posted by a local media outlet purportedly showing the arrest, police could be seen pinning a man down on the sidewalk next to a car with Trier license plates. The authenticity of the video could not immediately be verified and it was taken down shortly after police tweeted a request that people do not share photos and videos of the scene.
Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman, Steffen Seibert, tweeted that the scene was "shocking."
"Our thoughts are with the relatives of those killed and with the numerous injured, and with everyone currently on duty caring for them," he said.
Trier is about 200 kilometres west of Frankfurt, near the border with Luxembourg. The city of about 110,000 people is known for its Roman gate, the Porta Nigra, which is near the scene of the incident, and as the birthplace of Karl Marx.
- AP, with Daily Telegraph