Tuesday 12 December 2017

Terror ruled out as car bomb kills criminal in busy street

Police inspect the wreckage of the Volkswagen car after it exploded in Bismarckstrasse in Berlin
Police inspect the wreckage of the Volkswagen car after it exploded in Bismarckstrasse in Berlin

Dalia Fahmy in Berlin

Police have ruled out terrorism after a known drug dealer was assassinated with a car bomb in the middle of Berlin's rush-hour traffic yesterday morning.

Authorities said the 43-year-old man who died was a Turkish citizen with links to drug rings and other organised crime.

Murder investigators blocked off a section of Bismarckstrasse, a major thoroughfare lined with shops and restaurants, after the VW Passat estate exploded at about 8am.

The incident took place in the residential Charlottenburg district not far from the Deutsche Oper, one of the city's three opera houses.

Shocked onlookers watched as the vehicle suddenly exploded while moving, travelling another 100 metres before colliding with a parked car.

Photos of the scene show the vehicle surrounded by debris in the middle of the street with its doors open and windows blown out, with no damage visible to surrounding buildings or parked cars.

Investigators believe the blast was caused by an explosive device and initially urged people to stay off balconies in buildings along the street.

Around noon, police gave residents the all-clear after explosives experts inspected the wreckage.

"There's no indication of a terrorist background," said Martin Steltner, a spokesman for Berlin prosecutors.

"(The) explosion occurred inside or on the vehicle," said Carsten Mueller, deputy chief spokesman for Berlin police.

"Our investigators are working on the assumption that it was an explosive device that caused this," Mr Mueller said.

Nobody else was injured in the blast despite heavy traffic, he said.

The city has seen a spate of violence linked to biker gangs involved in the drugs trade in recent years.

Yunus Ozkan said he was driving to school when two cars in front of him braked suddenly, followed by an explosion and smoke cloud. "I stopped my car, I was scared," the 18-year-old student said near the scene of the incident.

"I thought the whole street would explode."

Irish Independent

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