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Car crashes into gate of Angela Merkel's office in Berlin

A car crashed into the gate of the office of German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin on Wednesday and the driver has now been taken into custody, according to the police.

Pictures from the scene showed police inspecting an estate car at the gate with the words "You damn killers of children and old people" scrawled in white on one side and "Stop Globalisation Politics" written on the other.

There were no immediate reports of casualties. Dozens of police and a fire engine were on the scene.

The car had license plates from the North Rhine-Westphalia area of Lippe and was driven away by the Berlin fire department showing little sign of damage. 

Local and federal police are investigating if the driver struck the gate intentionally, but Berlin police's spokeswoman said they did not currently suspect an extremist attack.

"We are not working on the basis of this assumption at the moment," she said.

Police tweeted that the 54-year-old driver was arrested, but didn't give any further details about the man.

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

Merkel's office had no immediate comment on the incident.

Europe is on high alert after suspected Islamist militants killed eight people in Paris, Nice and Vienna in recent weeks. On Tuesday, Swiss police have identified a Swiss woman who knifed a victim in the neck and grabbed another by the throat in a Lugano department store as a known jihadist.

Four years ago, a failed Tunisian asylum seeker with Islamist links, hijacked a truck then plowed it into a crowded Berlin Christmas market, killing 11 more people and injuring dozens of others.

The chancellery office, a white post-modernist structure set across a square from the Reichstag building that houses Germany's parliament, is well set back from any main roads.

The incident was reminiscent of a strikingly similar case in 2014 when a nearly identical car drove at slow speeds into the same gate, causing no damage. The car carried a slogan condemning climate change and a 48-year-old man was taken into custody at the time.

It was not immediately clear, however, whether the 2014 incident was related to that on Wednesday.

This is a breaking story and we will bring you more as we have it. 

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