One person was killed and at least a dozen others injured when a man drove a car into a crowd, including teenagers, at a busy shopping district in central Berlin on Wednesday, police said.

The driver was briefly detained by passers-by before being handed over to police after the car smashed through a shop front, according to police spokesman Thilo Cablitz.

It was not clear whether the crash was intentional. The driver, a 29-year-old German-Armenian man, is being questioned, police told AFP.

"There are seriously injured people among the more than a dozen injured," said Cablitz. 

Eight people had been taken to hospital and five were in a life-threatening condition, said Adrian Wenzel, a spokesman for the fire service.  

The German government is "very concerned and shocked" by the "terrible incident in Berlin", said a spokeswoman, adding that their thoughts are with the victims and their loved ones. 

The incident happened at around 10:30 am (0830 GMT) just across from Breitscheidplatz, where an Islamic State group sympathiser ploughed a truck through a Christmas market in 2016, killing 12.

The silver Renault Clio with a Berlin licence plate first mounted the sidewalk on the corner of Tauentzienstrasse and Rankestrasse, hitting a group of mostly teenagers, before returning to the road.

It then rammed into the shop front on Marburger Strasse about 150 to 200 metres (165 to 220 yards) away.

- 'Happened so fast' -

Frank Vittchen, a witness at the scene, told AFP he was sitting at a fountain nearby when he "heard a big crash and then also saw a person fly through the air". 

The vehicle drove "at high speed onto the pavement and didn't brake", he said, with its windows shattering from the impact.

"It all happened so fast," he said.

Another witness who declined to be named told AFP the people hit by the car included a group of 15-16-year-olds, and that two teachers were among those injured.

British-American actor John Barrowman posted a series of videos on Twitter from the scene. "I heard the bang and the crash when we were in a store and then we came out and we just saw the carnage," he said.

Germany has been on high alert for car ramming attacks since the deadly 2016 Christmas market assault, with most carried out by people who were found to have psychological issues.

In December 2020, a German man ploughed his car through a pedestrian shopping street in the southwestern city of Trier, killing four adults and a baby.

Earlier the same year, a German man rammed his car through a carnival procession in the central town of Volkmarsen, injuring dozens of bystanders, including children. He was sentenced to life in jail last year.

In January 2019, another German man injured eight people when he drove into crowds on New Year's Eve in the western cities of Bottrop and Essen. He was later taken into psychiatric care.

In April 2018, a German crashed his van into people seated outside a restaurant in the city of Muenster, killing five before shooting himself dead. Investigators later said he had mental health problems.

During the football World Cup in Germany in 2006, a German man rammed his car into crowds gathered to watch a match at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, injuring some 20 people. The driver was later committed to a psychiatric hospital.

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