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Truck rams into Berlin Christmas market, killing 12: What we know so far

A lorry ploughed into a busy Berlin Christmas market on Monday evening in a suspected attack that left at least 12 people dead and dozens more injured.

world Updated: Dec 20, 2016 16:35 IST
Rezaul H Laskar
A hearse of the forensic medicine leaves the site where a truck ploughed through a crowd at a Christmas market on Breitscheidplatz square in Berlin.
A hearse of the forensic medicine leaves the site where a truck ploughed through a crowd at a Christmas market on Breitscheidplatz square in Berlin.(Reuters Photo)

A lorry ploughed into a busy Berlin Christmas market on Monday evening in a suspected attack that left at least 12 people dead and dozens more injured.

Here is what we know of the event reminiscent of the horrific scenes in July when a truck drove into a crowd in the French Riviera city of Nice.

The attack

A semi-trailer truck ploughed 80 metres into a crowded Christmas market in central Berlin on Monday night, killing 12 people and injuring nearly 50 more, some of whom are in a critical condition. Witnesses said the incident was reminiscent of the July 14 attack on Bastille Day celebrations in the French town of Nice that killed 86 people.

Police said early on Tuesday the truck was steered “intentionally” into the crowd at the Christmas market in Berlin.

“Our investigators assume that the truck was intentionally steered into the crowd at the Christmas market,” police said in a Twitter message.

In pics: Truck ploughs through Christmas market in Berlin

The site

The attack occurred at Breitscheidplatz, the square in front of the historic Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church and a popular tourist destination. It is located close to the Berlin Zoo and the well-known Kurfurstendamm shopping street.

A general view shows the site where a truck ploughed through the crowd. (Reuters Photo)

The truck

The Scania truck had a Polish registration number and was loaded with steel beams. It left Poland for Italy via Germany on Monday but the firm lost contact with the driver at 4 pm local time. Ariel Zurawski, the owner of the vehicle, told Polish media his cousin had been driving the truck but he believed it was hijacked. Reports now suggest a dead Polish man found in the cab of the truck was the actual driver. The shipping company’s GPS tracking showed the truck was stationary in the Berlin suburb of Wedding for about two hours from 5 pm local time, Deutsche Welle reported.

The suspected attacker

The man who was allegedly driving the truck fled from the scene but was later arrested and was being interrogated by officers, police spokesman Thomas Neuendorf told the media.

There was no official word on the nationality of the suspect. The nationality of the suspected driver in custody is still unknown but Die Welt and DPA cited security sources as saying the man was a registered refugee and an asylum seeker from Pakistan or Afghanistan. Reports said the man had arrived in Germany on February 16.

Read | ‘He didn’t want to stop’: Survivors at Berlin Christmas market describe attack

Claim of responsibility

There has been no claim of responsibility so far from any terror group but experts pointed out that the incident was strongly reminiscent of the truck attack in Nice, which was claimed by the Islamic State. The IS has also called on its members and supporters to carry out such attacks in Europe using heavy vehicles.

Germany has been on high alert after taking in more than 1 million refugees over the past two years and German security agencies have foiled several attacks, including an attempted bombing at Berlin airport in October.

Reactions

White House spokesperson Ned Price referred to the incident as an apparent “terrorist attack” and president-elect Donald Trump blamed “ISIS and other Islamist terrorists” for slaughtering Christians as part of a “global jihad”.

German interior minister Thomas de Maiziere said there were indications the incident was an attack. France tightened security at Christmas markets after the attack.

Read | Polish owner of Berlin lorry says driver is ‘missing’

German police officers guard a Christmas market after a truck ploughed into a crowd on Breitscheidplatz square near the fashionable Kurfuerstendamm avenue in the west of Berlin. (Reuters Photo)