BREAKING: Berlin truck attacker ‘still at large and has a weapon,’ 12 dead
12/20/2016 / By newstarget / Comments
BREAKING: Berlin truck attacker ‘still at large and has a weapon,’ 12 dead

  • 12 dead and 48 injured, some severely, at Berlin market
  • Police unsure they have correct suspect after asylum seeker of Pakistani origin denies involvement
  • Attack occurred at Breitscheidplatz, outside the landmark  Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church
  • Everything we know so far

Article by Justin Huggler; Peter Foster; Harriet Alexander; Chiara Palazzo

German police have said they may have arrested the wrong man over the Berlin terror attack, and the real culprit could still be at large and armed and dangerous.

“We must get used to the idea that he was possibly not the perpetrator or that he didn’t belong to the group of perpetrators,” Germany’s chief prosecutor Peter Frank told a press conference.

Police urged people to remain “particularly vigilant” and to report “suspicious movement” to a special hotline.

“We have the wrong man,” an unnamed police source told Welt newspaper. “This means the situation is different. The real culprit is still armed and can commit further atrocities.”

 A police officer puts a suspect into a police van in Berlin Tuesday Credit: AP

A police officer puts a suspect into a police van in Berlin Tuesday Credit: AP

The man arrested on Monday night under suspicion of ploughing a 7-tonne truck through a Christmas market in the heart of Berlin, killing 12, was named in German media reports as Naved Baluch, a 23-year-old asylum seeker of Pakistani origin.

Baluch has denied involvement in the attack, according to police.

He was picked up about 2 kilometres (1½ miles) away from the scene of the attack, near the Victory Column monument.



The Welt daily reported that police raided a large shelter for asylum-seekers at Berlin’s defunct Tempelhof airport overnight. Four men are understood to have been questioned, but not arrested.

At least 48 were injured, some seriously, in the attack, after the vehicle mounted the pavement at about 40mph and crashed into them.

A passenger in the lorry – believed to be the original driver – was later found dead inside. German authorities confirmed that the passenger was a Polish national and that he was not the person in control of the vehicle, which belonged to a Polish delivery company, at the time of the crash.

2:35 PM

Authorities say they are on ‘high alert’ with ‘dangerous criminal’ possibly still at large

Berliner Zeitung newspaper reports that blood and DNA found inside the cab of the hijacked lorry do not match that of the arrested man, casting further doubt on whether he was involved.

“As there are doubts over whether the arrested man was responsible, it is unclear if the real perpetrator is still at large,” Holger Münch, the head of the Bundeskriminalamt, Germany’s national CID, said.

The fact that the gun with which the Polish passenger found inside the lorry was killed has not been found was a source of concern, he said.

“We are at high alert,” he said. Police said a ‘dangerous criminal’ may still be at large.

Peter Frank, the chief prosecutor, said it was still not certain that the attack had an Islamist background.

“From the chosen target and behaviour of the perpetrator, you can infer an Islamist motive,” he said. “But we must continue to investigate in all directions.”

2:31 PM

Merkel visits site

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere and German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier have visited the site of the attack to pay their respects.

 (L-R) Mayor of Berlin, Michael Muller, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere and Interior Senator, Andreas Geisel pay there respects Credit: Getty

(L-R) Mayor of Berlin, Michael Muller, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere and Interior Senator, Andreas Geisel pay there respects Credit: Getty


Six of dead identified as German nationals

From Justin Huggler in Berlin

Six of the dead in the attack have been identified so far, in addition to the Polish man found inside the lorry, the head of German CID has said.

All six were German nationals, Holger Münch told a press conference. Further details were not released. The names of crime victims are not generally released in Germany.

Possibly more than one perpetrator, attorney general says

There may have been more than one perpetrator involved in the attack, the German attorney general has said.

“It is unclear whether there are one or more perpetrators,” Peter Frank told a press conference in Berlin. “It is unclear whether there accomplices were involved. The investigation is still going on. We have to accept the possibility that the arrested man may not be the perpetrator.”

Video footage of the attack was being studied, Mr Frank said. It was clear that the Polish driver who was found dead inside the lorry had been abducted, he said.

Lorry’s GPS became ‘erratic’ four hours before the attack

From Matthew Day in Warsaw:

Ariel Zurawski, the owner of the lorry, has told local media he suspected that something was wrong when the GPS on the vehicle, which indicated its position every 10 minutes, started to show erratic movements.

“At about 3pm [on Monday the driver] talked with his wife, and then at 3:45pm the lorry started to move. The whole route was shown. The vehicle was illuminated and it started to move backwards and forwards. It was like the whoever was in charge was being taught to drive. Later, at 7:40pm there was no movement, and the vehicle stood still in the same place. Then it started to move.”

The attack occurred at 8pm local time.

He added that the driver appeared to know Berlin quite well.

Polish driver was ‘first victim’

The owner of a Polish trucking company says the driver who was the first victim of the attack on a Christmas market in Berlin was stabbed and shot to death in the cabin of his truck.

Ariel Zurawski says German authorities asked him to identify the victim, Lukasz Urban, 37, from photos.

“His face was swollen and bloodied. It was really clear that he was fighting for his life,” Zurawski said, speaking to broadcaster TVN.

Lukasz Wasik, the manager of the trucking company, described Urban as a “good, quiet and honest person” devoted to his work.

“I believe he would not give up the vehicle and would defend it to the end if were attacked,” Wasik said in comments carried by TVP, Poland’s state broadcaster.

Latest police chase ‘not terror-related’

Police now say the latest incident in Berlin is not terror-related.

A van crashed into tram tracks near the city’s Hackescher Market on Tuesday afternoon after a brief police chase.

But police say the driver was fleeing the scene of a traffic accident and the incident had nothing to do with the Christmas market attack.

Reports of new police chase

A van has crashed into tram tracks near the city’s Hackescher Market after a brief police chase.

The site is currently blocked off and rescue workers are on the scene. It is not clear whether the incident is linked to the Christmas market attack or is terrorism-related.

No gunpowder residue found on arrested man Naved B – report

Fresh detail from Justin Huggler in Berlin

Bild newspaper reports that no gunshot residue has been found on the arrested man, casting further doubt on whether he is the perpetrator.

Berlin Police advise city resident to exercise caution.


Berlin police chief: “not clear” Naved B is truck driver


From the Associated Press Berlin’s police chief says it isn’t clear whether the man detained in the wake of Monday’s fatal truck attack on a busy Christmas market was really the driver. Klaus Kandt told reporters in Berlin that “we haven’t been able to confirm it yet.”




Boris Johnson – Britain “mourns loss” of German citizens

Boris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary, has offered his condolences after the Berlin Christmas market attack and said Britain stands ready to help Germany in any way needed.

In a short statement to television cameras, Mr Johnson said: “We mourn the loss of a dozen Germans and many others injured.

“Our thoughts are very much with the families of those who’ve been injured or who’ve lost their lives in that appalling attack on a Christmas market in Berlin.

“We are talking obviously to our German counterparts to see what help we can offer.”

He also commented on the killing of the Russian ambassador in Ankara, Turkey, saying the attack was an “absolute outrage.

Berlin perpetrator could still be “at large” and dangerous – report

More on reports that the wrong man has been arrested from Justin Huggler, our Berlin correspondent:

German police believe they arrested the wrong man over the Berlin terror attack and the real culprit could still be at large, a German newspaper has claimed.

The real perpetrator could be armed and dangerous, it is being warned.

“We have the wrong man,” an unnamed police source told Welt newspaper. “This means the situation is different. The real culprit is still armed and can commit further atrocities.”

Welt said its information came from “high-ranking circles” in the Berlin police.

The arrested man is denying all involvement with the attack, the German interior minister confirmed this morning.

The claim that he may be the wrong man came as another newspaper named him as Naved Baluch.

Pakistani authorities are currently investigating two men by that name to see if one of them is the arrested man, Berliner Zeitung newspaper reported.

One of the two men was born in Pakistan, while the other was born in Afghanistan, in the province of Nimroz.

Pakistan was checking the men at the request of the German authorities, an unnamed source in the Pakistani foreign ministry told the newspaper.

Attack was a “brutal assassination” – German interior minister

More on the Interior minister briefing from Justin Huggler, our Berlin correspondent:

Many of the victims of the Berlin terror attack are still being identified, Thomas de Maiziere, the German interior minister, said in a statement on Tuesday morning.

“There is no longer any doubt that this is a terror attack. The truck was deliberately aimed at people who wanted to spend a peaceful and happy evening,” Mr de Maiziere said.

“It was a brutal assassination that people had to experience in Berlin.”

There has been no claim of responsibility from Isil or any other terror group so far, the minister said — “at least not via the channels and ways known to us”.

He confirmed that the arrested suspect is from Pakistan and is denying any involvement in the attack. The arrested man arrived in Germany on December 31 last year and requested asylum, but had not yet completed the asylum procedure after several scheduled hearings did not take place, Mr de Maiziere said.

The minister confirmed that one victim was killed with a gunshot. This is believed to be a Polish driver abducted with the hijacked lorry. Investigations were still underway into when he was killed, Mr de Maiziere said.

Christmas markets across Berlin will be closed today as a mark of respect but will open again tomorrow, Mr de Maiziere said. “I believe it is right that the Christmas markets should continue to operate across Germany,” he said.

“We must not allow fear to rule our lives,” he said. “If we retreat, the enemies of freedom have already won.”

 Mourners lay flowers outside the Berlin Christmas market  Credit: Rex Features

Mourners lay flowers outside the Berlin Christmas market Credit: Rex Features

Wrong man arrested in Berlin Christmas attack – report

 After it was reported that Naved B was denying responsibility for the attack, Die Welt now reporting that police arrested ‘wrong man’, citing senior police sources

Market attacker known to police in connection with sex assault – report

Justin Huggler, our Berlin correspondent writes:

The arrested suspect in the Berlin attack was previously known to police in connection with a case of sexual assault, it has emerged.

He was questioned by police over a sexual assault in July, Germany’s DPA news agency reports. An entry was made about the case in the German national police database. Further details have not been disclosed. Police previously said the arrested man was known to them in connection with non-terror-related crime, but gave no details.

If it is confirmed that the man was a suspect in a sexual assault, it would be seen as reminiscent of the New Year sex attacks in Cologne and could further inflame public opinion. Angela Merkel was widely criticised over her refugee policy in the wake of the Cologne attacks, but this would be the first overt link between a terror attack and sexual assault.

Breaking – German Interior minister confirms terror attack

Reuters alert:

German Interior minister, Thomas De Maiziere says there is “no doubt anymore” that the Berlin Christmas market incident was a terror attack.


Suspect ‘came from Baluchistan’, new Isil outpost in west Pakistan – report

Justin Huggler, our Berlin correspondent writes:

There are unconfirmed reports the arrested suspect is from the province of Baluchistan in the west of Pakistan, Sources close to the investigation say the suspect is from the troubled province, Berliner Zeitung newspaper reports.

Baluchistan has long been a base for Al-Qaeda and the Afghan Taleban, and more recently Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Isil) has become active there. Isil claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing in the provincial capital, in October. Khaledh Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, was originally from Baluchistan, although he grew up in Kuwait.

Suspect ‘Naved B’ denying he was Christmas market attacker – report

Justin Huggler, our  Berlin correspondent writes:

The arrested suspect in the Berlin attacks is denying that he was the driver of the truck, Germany’s DPA news agency reports.

The 23-year-old, named as Naved B, a Pakistani citizen who sought asylum in Germany in February, is currently being questioned by police. But he is denying all knowledge of the attack, DPA reports.


Suspect had temporary German residence since June 2016 – police report

From Reuters

The suspect in an incident at a Christmas market in Berlin where a truck ploughed into crowds and killed 12 people has had a temporary residence permit since June 2016, German newspaper Die Welt cited a criminal police report as saying.

The report also said that there continued to be a high threat from Islamic terrorism in Germany but there was no concrete threat.

A German security source said the suspect was a 23-year-old migrant from Pakistan known to police for committing minor offences.

France under “high level of threat” – Hollande

From Agence France Presse

President Francois Hollande said Tuesday France was under a “high level of threat” from terror attack following the carnage at a Berlin Christmas market.

Hollande said although France faced an elevated threat, it also already had a large-scale “security operation” in place following a string of jihadist outrages in the country over the past two years.

Alleged Christmas market attacker ‘caught after being tailed by bystander’ – report.

From Justin Huggler, our Berlin correspondent:

The suspect in the Berlin terror attack was only captured because of the swift and courageous actions of a bystander, it has emerged,

The man, who has not been named, saw the driver of the truck flee from the scene and followed him, police told Welt newspaper.

Keeping at a safe distance , he called police as he ran and gave the location of the fugitive.

The driver ran into the Tiergarten Park, presumably to try to exploit the cover of darkness in the woods.

Thanks to the witness’ prompt action, police were able to arrest the driver at the Victory Column monument in the middle of the park.

“This civic courage can give us strength today,” a police spokesman told Welt.

Police said they were not naming the heroic bystander as they believe he wishes to remain anonymous.




Polish PM confirms “first victim” was a citizen

From the Associated Press: Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydlo says it is “with pain and sadness we received the information that the first victim of this heinous act of violence was a Polish citizen.” Ms Szydlo told reporters that Monday’s attack on a Christmas market in Berlin is a reminder that “Europe must become unified in the fight against terrorism and Europe must take effective action to protect its citizens.”


Full Merkel statement: “repugnant” if attacker someone who sought asylum in Germany


Justin Huggler, our Berlin Correspondent, has sent a full version of Angela Merkel’s statement: “We do not want to live in fear of evil,” Angela Merkel said in a statement on the attack on Tuesday. “The whole country is united with the victims and bereaved in deep sorrow,” the German chancellor said. “We all hope and many of us pray for them. That they can find comfort and support. That they can live on after this terrible blow. “I am sad and shaken, together with millions of people in Germany. Twelve people who were still among us yesterday, who were looking forward to Christmas, who had plans, are no longer there.










Dressed all in black, Mrs Merkel said it would be “particularly repugnant” if the perpetrator is confirmed to be some one who was given asylum in Germany as a refugee. “This act will be thoroughly investigated and punished as severely as our laws permit,” she said. “How can we live with a murderer choosing to strike at a place where we celebrate life?” she said. The chancellor said her thoughts were with the victims.”I want them to know we’re all united with them in mourning,” she said. “We pray for the injured. That they can be healthy and live again. ” She thanked police and rescue workers “from the heart for their onerous service” and concluded: “There is much we still do not know with sufficient certainty but we must, as things stand now, assume it was a terrorist attack.”



Slovakia’s Fico warns Europe patience with migration at end

From Reuters: Europe’s “cup of patience” over migration is beginning to spill over, the Slovak Prime Minister said on Tuesday, following an attack on a Berlin Christmas market that killed 12 and wounded dozens. “The facts are simple: a migrant who arrived in Germany and got refugee status … is now interrogated as a suspect responsible for this heinous, repugnant crime,” Robert Fico told a televised news conference. “I think that the cup of patience is beginning to spill over and Europe’s public will rightfully expect rather stronger (anti-migration) measures.”





Germany is ‘in state of war’ – Saarland interior minister

The Interior minister of the German State of Saarland has given an interview in which he has described Germany being “in a state of war”, even though many people “don’t want to realise that”.






Merkel: ‘hard for us to take’ if Christmas market attacker is asylum seeker


German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Tuesday that authorities believe a deadly rampage by a lorry driver at a Berlin Christmas market was a “terrorist” attack likely committed by an asylum seeker. “According to what we know, we have to assume this was a terrorist attack,” Merkel, visibly moved and dressed in black, told reporters. “I know it will be especially hard for us to take if it is confirmed that the person who committed this attack sought protection and asylum in Germany.”





Putin sends condolences to Germany over Christmas market killings

From Reuters Russian President Vladimir Putin has sent condolences to Germany after a truck ploughed into a Christmas market in Berlin, killing 12 people and injuring 48, calling the attack “shocking”. “This crime against peaceful civilians is shocking in its savage cynicism,” Putin wrote to German Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Joachim Gauck, according to a statement on the Kremlin’s website.

Hijacked Polish driver of Berlin truck appears to have been shot – reports

From Reuters: One of those found dead after a truck ploughed into a Christmas market in Berlin had been shot, German magazine Focus Online reported on Tuesday, citing the interior minister for the state of Brandenburg. The victim was most likely the Polish driver of the truck, Brandenburg Interior Minister Karl-Heinz Schroeter said in Potsdam, referring to information from a telephone conference of state interior ministers, the magazine said. He said the Polish driver was a victim, not a perpetrator, the magazine said. Police said earlier that the man found dead in the truck was a Polish citizen but added he was not in control of the vehicle.





Migration debate to ‘flare up’ after Berlin attack, but Merkel likely to survive

Carsten Nickel of Teneo Intelligence, the risk consultancy, provides the following snap assessment of the potential political impacts of the Berlin Christmas market attack: “Politicians and especially Merkel have long feared an attack in Germany. Now that this threat might have materialized, its political impact is probably bigger shortly before Christmas than at any other time of the year. The relative calm of the news cycle during the holiday period will further amplify its effect on the public debate.
“In a worst-case scenario for Merkel, recent speculation would prove correct that the truck’s alleged driver entered Germany in February via the Balkan migration route. If this was indeed the case, the debate about Merkel’s migration policy would likely flare up again once the immediate shock has subsided – fuelled mainly by the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD). “However, it remains difficult to envisage a scenario in which Merkel fails to get re-elected in the 2017 Bundestag polls. Even with a stronger AfD performance than the 12% at which it is currently polling, finding coalition partners is probably even more important than poll performance under a proportional electoral system.”






Vehicle ‘deliberately’ driven into the crowd

Berlin police said on Twitter on Tuesday that investigators assume that the lorry was intentionally driven into the crowd. “Our investigators assume that the truck was deliberately steered into the crowd at the Christmas market at Breitscheidplatz,” police said. They added that measures related to the “suspected terrorist attack at Breitscheidlplatz in Berlin are progressing at full stream.”

Forensic units still at work

Forensic units are still collecting evidence at the scene of the crash, CNN reported.

Police have not revealed the identity of the person arrested and have said that they cannot confirm that this was the person at the wheel when the accident occurred.

Berlin police have confirmed that the Polish man who was found dead in the lorry was not the driving at the time of the crash.


Man in passenger seat is Polish national, police confirm

The passenger who died in the lorry was a Polish national, Berlin police said on Twitter in the early hours of Tuesday. Police have not identified the man nor give any other details.

Ariel Zurawski, the Polish owner of the lorry, said earlier that he feared the vehicle may have been hijacked.

Mr Zurawski told Polish television that his cousin, who is 37-year-old, had initially been driving the truck, but he believed it had been hijacked.

“I can say, hand on heart, that the man who drove into those people in the centre of Berlin was not my driver,” Mr Zurawksi said.

“This is my cousin. I’ve known him since birth. I have faith in him, this is not the man I know, they have done something to him.”

He said he believed the dead man found inside the cab of the lorry was his cousin.

Berlin police raise death toll to 12

Berlin police have raised the death toll to 12 with 48 injured in the early hours of Tuesday adding that some of the injured are in severe condition.

Police had previously reported that 9 people had died and at least 50 were injured in the incident.

Driver said to be “refugee from Pakistan” – unconfirmed reports

Unconfirmed reports in the German press on Monday night claimed that the driver of the truck had arrived in the country this year as a refugee from Pakistan.

German newspaper “Die Welt” reported sources saying that the suspected driver is a Pakistani refugee who arrived in the country on February 16, 2016.

The newspaper, which had previously reported the nationality of the suspect to be Chechen, quoted the Tagesspiegel reporting that the person arrested in connection to the incident was known to police for minor criminal offences unrelated to terrorism.

Daily newspaper Tagesspiegel reported “security sources” saying that the person arrested was “Pakistani or Afghani”. The report has not been confirmed.

 Security and rescue workers tend to the area after a lorry truck was ploughed through a Christmas market in Berlin Credit: Getty Images

Security and rescue workers tend to the area after a lorry truck was ploughed through a Christmas market in Berlin Credit: Getty Images

Berlin police: Suspected that lorry was stolen

“It is suspected that the truck was stolen from a construction site in Poland. The investigations are still ongoing.” Berlin police said on Monday night on Twitter.

The Polish owner of the lorry that ploughed into the market confirmed his driver was missing.

“We haven’t heard from him since this afternoon. We don’t know what happened to him. He’s my cousin, I’ve known him since I was a kid. I can vouch for him,” transport company owner Ariel Zurawski told AFP.

The company’s transport manager, Lukasz Wasik, said the driver is 37 years old and had been transporting Thyssen steel products from Italy to Berlin.

“The company where he was supposed to unload the products in Berlin was not able to receive them and told him to return on Tuesday morning. They told him to wait in Berlin somewhere,” Wasik told AFP.

“We lost contact with him around 3:00 pm local time (1400 GMT). We don’t know what happened – whether he was taken hostage, killed. We know nothing. We’re very worried about him.”

“What a tragedy,” he added.

Eyewitness describes Berlin Christmas market incident

Eyewitness Emma Rushton describes seeing the truck that rammed through a crowded Christmas market in central Berlin, killing at least nine people.


Berlin police: 45 wounded taken to hospital

The rescue operation at the incident site has terminated, Berlin police said on Twitter.

Police say that 45 people have been taken to hospital.

Donald Trump blames ‘Islamist terrorists’ for ‘slaughter’ of Christians in Berlin

US president-elect Donald Trump has blamed ‘Islamist terrorists’ for ‘slaughter’ of Christians in Berlin in a statement released late on Monday.

The White House and Italian foreign minister have referred to the market incident as an “attack” while German authorities have refrained from using the term to describe the events so far.

“ISIS and other Islamist terrorists continually slaughter Christians in their communities and places of worship as part of their global jihad,” Mr Trump said in the statement, using an acronym for Islamic State or Isil.

On Twitter, thee president-elect said the attack, along with others in Turkey and Switzerland, showed “it is only getting worse. The civilized world must change thinking!”

German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said there were many signs that the incident was an attack.

“I don’t want to use the word ‘attack’ yet, although there are many things pointing to one,” he told public television after at least nine people were killed in the incident.

Italy foreign minister ‘pained’ by Berlin deaths

Angelino Alfano, the Italian foreign minister, says he was “deeply stricken and pained” by the deaths of nine people in Berlin when a heavy truck crashed into a Christmas market.

Though German police say it is too early to call whether the incident was intentional, Mr Aflano referred to it as an attack.

In a statement provided by Italy’s foreign ministry, Alfano expresses closeness to Germans “in this sad moment that instead should be of joy and peace in the approach to the Christmas holidays.”

Alfano says attacks “won’t change our determination to combat terrorism” alongside international partners and in particular Germany, saying the two countries are in strict coordination.

“Disgusting attack to the heart of Europe,” the minister said on Twitter.

“Close to the victims’ families, to the German government and people hit by this tragedy #Berlin”.

French president Francois Hollande expressed his “solidarity and compassion” with the German people and chancellor on Twitter.

Separately, Italy’s ambassador in Berlin, Pietro Benassi, told Italian state TV that German authorities couldn’t say yet if any foreigners were among the victims.

Nationality of Berlin crash driver still unclear – police spokesman

The nationality of the suspected truck driver is still unclear, a police spokesman said.

The suspect, who fled the crash scene and was later arrested, was being interrogated by officers, police spokesman Thomas Neuendorf told reporters.

He added that the crashed truck had a Polish license plate and that German officials were in contact with Polish authorities.

France boosts security at Christmas markets after Berlin deaths

Security has been beefed up at Christmas markets throughout France following the deadly “attack” in Berlin on Monday, French Interior Minister Bruno Le Roux said.

“Security at Christmas markets was immediately reinforced” after “the attack” in which a lorry ploughed into a Berlin Christmas market killing at least nine people, he said.

Europe has been on high alert for most of 2016. In November, the US state department issued an alert to its citizens about a heightened risk of terrorist attacks throughout Europe, particularly during the holiday season.

More about the lorry

The lorry belongs to a Polish firm based in the northern town of Gryfino, just a stone’s throw from the German border.

The company owner said the vehicle involved in the incident was new and only had about 30,000 kilometres on the clock.

Dead co-driver Polish national

German police said that the dead passenger in the truck’s passenger seat was Polish, the nationality of the suspected driver is still unclear.


Glass is shattered on the windshield as police walk near the damaged lorry truck after it was ploughed through a Christmas market in Berlin Credit: Getty Images

White House condemns apparent ‘terrorist attack’

The United States labeled the Berlin events as an apparent “terrorist attack”.

“The United States condemns in the strongest terms what appears to have been a terrorist attack on a Christmas Market in Berlin, Germany, which has killed and wounded dozens,” White House National Security spokesman Ned Price said in a statement late on Monday.

“Germany is one of our closest partners and strongest allies, and we stand together with Berlin in the fight against all those who target our way of life and threaten our societies.

“We have been in touch with German officials, and we stand ready to provide assistance as they recover from and investigate this horrific incident.”

Lorry’s owner: This is my cousin

Matthew Day in Warsaw writes:

Ariel Zurawski, the owner of the lorry, told Polish television: “This is my cousin. I’ve known him since birth. I have faith in him, this is not the man I know, they have done something to him.”

Mr Zurawski said he believed his cousin and had been high jacked and his lorry stolen.

“I can say hand on heart that the man who drove into those people in the centre of Berlin was not my driver.”

He added that the driver had left Italy and was staying in Berlin where he was due to drop off his cargo of steel elements. The laden lorry weighed about 25 tonnes.

Mr Zurawski said his cousin had been in the profession for 15 years and was an experienced driver. “His wife had talked with about noon but after 4pm she could not get hold of him.”

The lorry’s owner added: “My wife told me they had found a body in the cab. From what they say it could be my driver. My cousin. Please forgive me but I can’t talk any more now.”

Poland’s foreign ministry said on Monday night that it had no information on the nationality of the driver.

SITE: Isil have not claimed responsibility

The director of the SITE intelligence group says that the New York Post report is wrong.

New York Post: Isil claims responsibility

The Iraqi Popular Mobilization Force has tweeted that Isil was taking credit for the incident, according to the New York Post.

It’s worth bearing in mind that claims of responsibility have to be approached with caution: they do not necessarily mean that an attack was directed by them, or indeed that it had anything to do with them. It’s often just a celebration.

People still milling around near the market

Joseph Spencer in Berlin writes:

Police have closed the access roads to traffic from up to half a mile away from Der Hohle Zahn, or the hollow tooth, as the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church is known to locals. There are still a remarkable number of people on the streets, though nearly all are moving in the same direction away from church.

People are still on the streets of Berlin

My Turkish-German taxi driver, Fathi, born in Berlin, showed me a video he downloaded to his iPhone of what appeared to be the immediate aftermath of truck crash, with people on the ground and others screaming in the background.

“It’s not good for Germany, no, it’s not good for the world” he told me.

The Christmas market by the church itself has been cordoned off by armed police every few metres or so, but is otherwise quiet.

“Could be accident or attack”


Berlin police warn people to stay at home

British tourist: “This was not an accident”

Emma Rushton, a British tourist, has been speaking to CNN from her hotel room in Berlin.

She said:

“We were enjoying the Christmas lights when we heard a loud bang.

“We were sitting down, ready to get up. We saw to our left Christmas lights torn down and we saw the top of an articulated lorry crashing through the stalls and through people.”

The lorry was driving fast, and it showed few signs that it was slowing down, she said. She looked on in horror as the black 7.5-tonne vehicle ploughed through a mulled wine stand, crushing those inside and around it.

“We wanted to get out as soon as possible, we wanted to get to a safe place.

“I saw people bleeding, lying in the pavement. The store  where mulled wine was being served was crushed.”

She said she considered stopping to help the wounded, but decided it was too dangerous to remain in the area, and instead returned to her hotel.

“From my opinion, it was going at 40mph, there was no road nearby and no signs it was slowing down.

“It did not feel like an accident…there was no way it could have come off like an accident, it was through the middle of the market.”

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