Car hits gate outside Merkel’s offices

A car crashed into the front gate of the building housing German chancellor Angela Merkel's offices on Wednesday morning but the incident did not appear to have caused any great damage, Berlin police said.

Police spokesman Thilo Cablitz told reporters the 54-year-old driver was detained at the scene after driving at a slow speed into the gate and was being questioned.

He said police were investigating whether he might be psychologically disturbed or had other motivations.

The car had the slogan "You damned murderers of children and old people" scrawled in white paint on one side. On the other side it said "stop the globalisation policies".

It had number plates from the Lippe area in western Germany and was driven away by the Berlin fire service showing little sign of damage beyond a few scratches. The metal gate to the chancellery appeared slightly bent.

According to Germany's Interior Ministry, the same man had already been involved in an almost identical incident in 2014.

At that time, he drove a similar, if not the same, car into the same gate but caused no damage. The car carried a slogan scrawled in white paint on the side that condemned climate change and the man was taken into custody.

Reports in 2014 said the man had done something similar before.

Interior Ministry spokesman Steve Alter said he did not know whether the suspect was listed as a possible threat.

The chancellery sits in central Berlin next to the Swiss Embassy and across from the capital's parliamentary offices. The exterior gate that was hit can be accessed from public streets.

"For the chancellor, other members of the federal government, and the people employed in the chancellery there was no danger at any time," Mrs Merkel's office said.

There was no immediate indication of what prompted the incident, but it came on the day that Mrs Merkel was to meet with state governors to talk about extending a partial coronavirus shutdown that started on November 2.

The government's approach toward slowing the coronavirus pandemic and the restrictions enjoy widespread support among most Germans but they have also prompted occasionally violent protests in some major cities.