German police said they have detained a 54-year-old man who drove a car into the gate of the German chancellery in central Berlin, in what appeared to be a protest.

"The car stands at the gate. We are looking at whether he knowingly steered it there," a police spokeswoman said, adding that it was unclear whether there had been any damage. 

"Stop globalisation politics" was painted on one side of the dark green Volkswagen while on the driver's side, "you damned children- and old-people murderers" was scrawled.

The vehicle, which did not look damaged, touched the gates where concrete slates were raised as an additional security precaution preventing any vehicles from forcing their way into the site of Chancellor Angela Merkel's office.

German media reported that the same vehicle had sought to drive into the security perimeter in 2014, in what then appeared to be a protest against global warming.

The car then bore the slogan "stop climate change which is killing people". 

A 48-year-old man was taken into custody over that incident.                             

A Berlin police spokesman said the incident at the chancellery is not being considered as an attack.

Europe is on high alert after suspected Islamist militants killed eight people in Paris, Nice and Vienna in recent weeks.

Yesterday, Swiss police identified a Swiss woman, who stabbed a person in the neck and grabbed another by the throat in a Lugano department store, as a known jihadist. 

The 28-year-old was arrested following the attack.

"The perpetrator is known to @FedpolCH," the federal police said on Twitter. "She appeared in a police investigation in 2017 in connection with jihadism."

The regional police had already mentioned a possible terror motive behind the attack.

The woman was overpowered by customers in the shop before officers arrived.

The Swiss federal police said criminal proceedings were under way.