After an automobile plowed through a group made up of mostly schoolchildren in Berlin yesterday, politicians are describing the incident as a targeted attack. Police stated that the German-Armenian suspect, who been arrested numerous times in the past, was responsible for the crime.
Both German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Berlin Mayor Franziska Giffey told Berlin’s public broadcasting network RBB that it appeared the attack was an “Amoktat,” roughly translated as “amok act” or a violent attack driven by rage. According to news reports, there are indications that the man is “mentally ill,” similar to cases in the past despite indications of intent behind such automobile attacks.
The 29-year-old German-Armenian, identified as Gor. H. who lives in Berlin, drove a small vehicle into a group of pedestrians yesterday afternoon near the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church in the Charlottenburg district, a popular tourist location that also serves as the main shopping strip in Berlin. Among the victims was a large group of students from a senior class in Bad Arolsen, located in the German state of Hessen. Gor H., who reportedly obtained German citizenship but was originally from Armenia, reportedly killed the teacher, but many children were also severely injured and remain in the hospital; some 14 individuals suffering injuries during the vehicle assault, 12 of them students.
Yesterday evening, Scholz spoke of a “cruel amok act,” which he wrote left him “deeply affected.”
German children and teens routinely travel around the country and internationally in school groups, an event that many young people look forward to. For young people who cannot afford such trips, schools and churches have special programs to help them cover the cost in order to join their classmates. The trip to Berlin ended in a nightmare, both for the children in the hospital and for the parents enduring what is now an unspeakable tragedy.
The suspect reportedly drove on a sidewalk for 200 meters, striking a number of victims, and then swerved off of it back onto the road. Shortly thereafter, he drove up the street and crashed into a perfume shop.
According to Berlin’s Senator for the Interior Iris Spranger, the event “presents itself as an ‘amok act’ by a mentally handicapped person.” A spokesman for the Berlin police also spoke of evidence “that supports the theory of a psychological state of emergency.”
However, there is also an investigation into whether the incident was politically motivated. As of now, homicide investigators are looking into the case, not federal security, which would be the case if the murder was deemed “politically motivated.” Nevertheless, the driver’s home was searched on Wednesday, and documents and posters were recovered related to Turkey, potentially in a political context, according to Spranger. The man has numerous cases on his criminal record, but none of them were connected with extremism.
The scene of yesterday’s attack is not far from where an Islamic radical drove a truck into a Christmas market in December 2016. Then, a total of 13 people were killed and over 70 injured.