Tuesday

19th Sep 2017

Lorry hits Berlin Christmas market in suspected attack

  • The truck forced itself into the Christmas market near Breitscheidplatz, a popular tourist destination in western Berlin, a bit after 8 PM. (Photo: Reuters/Pawel Kopczynski)

Berlin police say a truck "deliberately" barreled into a Christmas market in Berlin on Monday (19 December) evening, killing at least 12 people in what authorities called "a probable terror attack".

Another 48 were injured, some seriously, the police said.

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The identity of the driver is still unclear, a spokeswoman told the German press agency DPA.

A man suspected to be the driver was detained 2km from the scene. He was questioned through the night.

According to DPA, he could be Afghan or Pakistani, and could have applied for asylum in February. The police have not confirmed the man's nationality.

Another man, whom the police confirmed was a Polish national, was found dead in the truck, which has Polish licence plates and belongs to a Polish haulage company.

His cousin told Polish radio that he had driven to Berlin in the lorry with a load of steel, and had been unreachable since 4pm on Monday.

The information has not been confirmed by German police, who suggested the truck was stolen from a construction site in Berlin. The police said on Tuesday the vehicle had been confiscated for examination.

The truck forced itself into the Christmas market near Breitscheidplatz, a popular tourist destination in western Berlin, a bit after 8pm.

The police thanked traders around the market for taking care of the wounded and for helping the police.

They asked people to share videos and photos of the events with the authorities, but to refrain from spreading them online.

The case was being investigated by Germany's federal prosecutor general.

"I don't want to use the word 'attack' yet at the moment, although there is a strong case for it," German minister of interior, Thomas de Maiziere, said on German radio ARD.

He said that the choice of words would have a "psychological effect on the whole country", warranting restraint.

"We want to be very, very cautious and operate close to the actual investigation results, not with speculation,” he said.

"We are crying for the victims, and hope many of the hurt ones will receive help," wrote on Twitter Steffen Seibert, the spokesman of chancellor Angela Merkel.

German president Joachim Gauck, European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker, and French president Francois Hollande were among those who also voiced condolences to families of the victims.

"The French share the mourning of the Germans who are facing this tragedy, which hits all Europe," Hollande said.

Some, however, laid the blame for the attack with the chancellor, and her choice to welcome asylum seekers. Marcus Pretzell, an MEP and one of the leaders of the anti-immigrant AfD party, tweeted shortly after the attack that it was "Merkel's dead".

No group has so far claimed responsibility for the events, but the so-called Islamic State (IS) jihadist group has previously called on followers to carry out terrorist strikes in Europe.

Europol, the EU’s joint police agency, said earlier this month that further jihadist attacks are likely in Europe. It said Germany could be a target because it contradicted the promise of the Caliphate as an Islamic utopia by welcoming Syrian refugees. Europol said it was likely recruiters tried to infiltrate refugee reception centres.

Die Welt's Washington correspondent wrote on Twitter that according to his colleagues, Berlin authorities had in recent days received information about possible attack against Christmas markets.

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