BERLIN — A blast from an explosive device tore apart a moving car in a Berlin neighborhood Tuesday, killing the driver and putting the German capital on edge.
German police cordoned off the location, not far from the Deutsche Oper mass transit station in the Charlottenburg neighborhood of western Berlin. Residents were asked to stay indoors temporarily.
The incident was initially treated as a criminal rather than a terror investigation, with authorities looking into possible underworld links by the driver.
The explosion, officials said, occurred shortly before 8 a.m. local time. Images on the scene showed a gray, 4-door Volkswagen Passat, its hood crumpled and its doors bent. The vehicle was apparently in motion, traveling down the city’s Bismarck Street, when it exploded and flipped over, according to Berlin police spokesman Michael Merkle.
Merkle confirmed that the driver was a 43-year-old male of “a migrant background,” but gave no further details.
He said the man, according to Spiegel online, had been investigated before for alleged drug dealing.
“We are investigating in the the direction of organized crime, and it doesn’t look at all like a terrorist attack at this point,” Merkle said.
It remained unclear, however, whether an explosion device in the car was set off on purpose or accidentally tripped.
“Our specialists are now looking into how this occurred in an extensive investigation,” Berlin police said in a tweet.
European nations including Germany have been high alert after several foiled terror plots following the November siege in Paris by Islamist extremists.
Souad Mekhennet in Tunis and Stephanie Kircher in Berlin contributed to this report.