Berlin market attack: Suspect named as 23-year-old asylum seeker from Pakistan
Watch | Police arrest suspect in Berlin market attack
20 December 2016 • 10:53am
- 12 dead and 48 injured, some severely, at Berlin market
- Police believe “likely terrorist incident”
- Suspect arrested, man thought to be original driver found dead
- Attack occurred at Breitscheidplatz, outside the landmark Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church
A man arrested under suspicion of ploughing a 7-tonne truck through a Christmas market in the heart of Berlin, killing 12, has been named in German media reports as Naved B, a 23-year-old asylum seeker of Pakistani origin.
No official confirmation has been provided at this time.
The suspect was picked up about 2 kilometres (1½ miles) away from the scene of the attack in which 12 were, near the Victory Column monument.
Berlin’s public radio station RBB-Inforadio reported that the suspect was a Pakistani citizen who entered Germany on Dec. 31, 2015, citing an unnamed security source.
This partly concurred with those in other German media.
News agency dpa, also citing unnamed security sources, reported that he came to Germany as a refugee in February 2016. Berlin’s Tagesspiegel newspaper reported that the man was known to police for minor crimes.
Berlin police declined to confirm the identification of the man as the alleged attacker, but a police spokesman said the man was being interrogated.
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.
Watch | Lorry used to plough through Christmas market is towed away
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.
Police said the incident – which echoed an attack in Nice in July this year where 86 people were killed by a truck driven by a terrorist inspired by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) – appeared to be intentional and was being investigated as a suspected terror attack. On Monday night they warned local residents to stay indoors.
Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, expressed her sympathy for the victims of the incident.
Germany was put on high alert for a major terror attack in the months after Mrs Merkel opened the country’s borders to more than one million refugees from the Middle East.
Within minutes of last night’s incident, far-Right politicians were criticised for exploiting the attack to suggest that Germany’s generosity had allowed extremists into the country.
Police officers inspect the lorry that crashed into a Christmas market at Gedächniskirche church in Berlin.
The carnage came just hours after the Russian ambassador to Turkey had been shot dead in the Turkish capital Ankara by a policeman who claimed to be taking revenge for Moscow’s involvement in the battle for Aleppo.
It followed warnings from intelligence agencies that Isil terrorists may target Christmas markets in Europe.
Witnesses of the Berlin attack described scenes of panic and horror as a lorry veered off the street and ploughed into the crowded Christmas market just off the famous shopping street of Kurfürstendamm at around 8pm local time (7pm GMT).
Emma Rushton, a tourist, told CNN: “We were enjoying the Christmas lights and mulled wine. We were ready to get up when we heard a loud bang, To our left we saw Christmas lights torn down and the top of an articulated lorry crashing through the stalls and through people.
“We wanted to get out as soon as possible. We wanted to get to a safe place. In my opinion, it was going at 40mph, there was no sign 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. The stall where mulled wine was being served was crushed. I saw people bleeding, lying in the pavement.”
Mike Fox, who was visiting Berlin from Birmingham, said the lorry missed him by around three yards.
“It was definitely deliberate,” he said. He added that he helped people who appeared to have broken limbs, and that others were trapped under Christmas stands.
Crushed stalls were left in the remains of the Christmas market last night, in the shadow of the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, which is preserved in ruins from Second World War bombing.
Many of the injured were said to be in a life-threatening condition last night.
The company said the vehicle, which was loaded with steel beams, had left Poland for Berlin earlier in the day but that contact with the driver was lost at around 4pm local time (3pm GMT) and the firm believed the lorry may have been hijacked.
There has long been concern in Germany that the country’s traditional Christmas markets could be a target for a terror attack. German intelligence picked up several indications of an imminent attack on a market in the days leading up to the attack, according to Die Welt newspaper.
Since Nice, security experts have warned that it is largely impossible to protect people against this style of attack, in which a lorry is driven into a crowd.
The lorry is pictured from behind.
Attention will now focus on the identity of the perpetrators. Any indication that they may have been asylum-seekers will heap pressure on Mrs Merkel over her controversial “open door” refugee policy, under which more than one million migrants entered Germany last year.
Mrs Merkel has distanced herself from the policy in recent months, and promised it will never be repeated, after her party suffered damaging losses in regional elections and with general elections looming next year.
Forensic units inspect the scene of the crash in Berlin
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
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
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
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.
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.
Watch | Berlin market eyewitness: “It was far too reminiscent of Nice”
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.
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.
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”
Reuters – BERLIN STATE INTERIOR MINISTER SAYS BACKGROUND OF TRUCK CRASH AT BERLIN CHRISTMAS MARKET STILL UNCLEAR, COULD BE ACCIDENT OR ATTACK
British tourist: “This was not an accident”
Emma Rushton, a British tourist, has been speaking to CNN from her hotel room in Berlin.
“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.”
US state department warned about attacks
On November 21, the state department warned Americans travelling to Europe to be aware of possible terrorist attacks on Christmas markets.
U.S. citizens should exercise caution at holiday festivals, events, and outdoor markets. This Travel Alert expires on February 20, 2017.
Credible information indicates the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or Da’esh), al-Qa’ida, and their affiliates continue to plan terrorist attacks in Europe, with a focus on the upcoming holiday season and associated events.
U.S. citizens should also be alert to the possibility that extremist sympathizers or self-radicalized extremists may conduct attacks during this period with little or no warning. Terrorists may employ a wide variety of tactics, using both conventional and non-conventional weapons and targeting both official and private interests.
Angela Merkel receives briefing
Reuters are reporting that German Chancellor Angela Merkel is currently being briefed by the interior minister.
Facebook safety check activated
Facebook has activated its ‘Safety Check’ feature which allows people who are in the affected area to check-in as “safe”. The social media site has already declared the event as a “terrorist attack”, before the police.
Suspect arrested, co-driver dead
A co-driver in the lorry is dead, according to Germany’s N24 TV.
The same channel is also confirming reports that a suspect has been arrested.
According to a German journalist, Berlin police have arrested a suspect at Victory Column, a major tourist attraction in the city. Police have not officially confirmed this.
Did German intelligence fear an attack?
German intelligence have been intercepting indications of a possible attack on a Christmas market in Berlin for several days, Welt newspaper is claiming
Is driver still on run?
According to unverified reports the driver of the lorry has not yet been apprehended, as police launch manhunt.
‘Several dead, 50 injured’
According to local police, at least 50 people have been badly injured and several people have died.
Local media, citing police at the scene, said first indications pointed to an attack on the market, situated near the fashionable Kurfuerstendamm avenue and at the foot of the ruined Kaiser Wilhelm memorial church that was kept as a ruin after World War Two.
The incident evoked memories of an attack in France in July when Tunisian-born Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel drove a 19-tonne truck along the beach front, mowing down people who had gathered to watch the fireworks on Bastille Day, killing 86 people.
Police shot the driver dead in the Nice attack claimed by Islamic State.
Television pictures from Berlin showed the truck standing amid debris by small wooden stalls that make up the “Christkindlmarkt” of which there are several in Berlin at this time of year. Police cars and ambulances converged on the scene.
Lorry travelling at 40mph – and wasn’t slowing down
Eyewitnesses say the incident does not look like an accident.
Emma Rushton, who was at the market wrote on Twitter:
We were enjoying the Xmas lights and mulled wine. We were sat, ready to get up,we heard a loud bang, we saw to our left Xmas lights torn down and we saw the top of an articulated lorry crashing through the stalls and through people.
We wanted to get out as soon as possible. We wanted to get to a safe place. 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. The story where mulled wine was being served was crushed. I saw people bleeding, lying in the pavement.