Berlin terror attack: ISIS claim responsibility for market horror crash as new manhunt gets underway
*Terror group claim the attack *'Dangerous criminal' may still be at large say police *Prosecutor says they do not have enough evidence to build a case up to now *Not yet known how many foreigners are among dead but no children were killed *Investigators are following 'several leads' *Witnesses share accounts with Independent.ie
Terror group Islamic State have claimed responsibility for a horror attack on a German Christmas market which killed 12 and left up to 50 injured.
A news agency linked to the group have said the so-called Islamic State or IS has claimed responsibility for the truck crash as a new manhunt is underway for the suspect or suspects in the attack.
The executor of the operation.. in Berlin is a soldier of the Islamic state and he executed the operation in response to calls to target nationals of the coalition countries," the militant group's AMAQ news agency said on Tuesday
German authorities have released a man who was arrested in the wake of the attack, saying they do not have enough evidence to build a case.
Police have admitted that a suspect or suspects may still be at large.
However, German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said investigators are now following several leads.
"We just heard about the supposed claim of responsibility by this so-called Islamic State that is in fact a gang of terrorists," de Maiziere told ARD broadcaster.
"There are several leads that investigators are following now," the minister added.
De Maiziere added that "nobody will rest until the perpetrator or the perpetrators are caught".
Islamic State has claimed the Berlin truck attacker is an IS soldier "targeting citizens of the Crusader coalition" .
A Pakistani asylum-seeker was arrested shortly after the horrifying incident but police said he may not be the attacker, and the real perpetrator could still be on the run before his release this evening.
Prosecutors noted in a statement that witnesses were able to follow the truck's driver from the scene but lost track of him. The man arrested matched witness descriptions of the truck driver, but investigators have not been able to prove he was in the truck's cab at the time of the attack.
Under German law, prosecutors have until the end of the calendar day following an arrest to seek a formal arrest warrant keeping a suspect in custody.
The German Interior Minister has said it is not yet known how many foreigners are among the victims of the Christmas Market crash but there are no children among the dead.
Earlier BKA chief Holger Muench said authorities are not sure if the suspect they have in custody was the driver of the truck, adding that the man denies being involved.
He said police have also not yet found a pistol believed to have been used to kill a Polish truck driver who was supposed to be delivering steel beams with the truck when it went missing.
Germany's top prosecutor Peter Frank told reporters the attack on the market outside the landmark Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church was reminiscent of July's deadly truck attack in Nice and appeared to follow instructions published by Islamic State (IS).
Mr Frank said: "There is also the prominent and symbolic target of a Christmas market, and the modus operandi that mirrors at least past calls by jihadi terror organisations."
German chancellor Angela Merkel insisted the attack cannot change Germans' way of life.
She said in a televised statement: "Twelve people who were still among us yesterday, who were looking forward to Christmas, who had plans for the holidays, aren't among us any more.
"A gruesome and ultimately incomprehensible act has robbed them of their lives."
Witnesses saw only one man flee from the truck after it rammed into the crowded Christmas market on Monday evening. It smashed through the market, travelling 200-250ft before finally coming to a halt.
Six of those killed have been identified as Germans, and the man found shot and killed in the truck's passenger seat was Polish. The other five people killed have not yet been identified, and 18 people are still said to be suffering from serious injuries.
Interior minister Thomas de Maiziere said the man detained shortly after the attack was a Pakistani citizen. He had entered Germany as a migrant on December 31 last year and arrived in Berlin in February.
Berlin police urged people to remain "particularly vigilant" and to report "suspicious movement" to a special hotline.
Nine die in lorry 'attack' on Berlin Xmas market. US tourist Sabrina Glinz witnessed the aftermath of the incident. https://t.co/pOalxq41Oa— Sky News (@SkyNews) December 19, 2016
"We may still have a dangerous criminal out there," Berlin police chief Klaus Kandt said.
Mr Merkel, who has been criticised for allowing in huge numbers of migrants last year, directly addressed the possibility that an asylum-seeker was responsible for the carnage.
"I know that it would be particularly hard for us all to bear if it were confirmed that a person committed this act who asked for protection and asylum in Germany," Mrs Merkel said.
"This would be particularly sickening for the many, many Germans who work to help refugees every day and for the many people who really need our help and are making an effort to integrate in our country."
A spokesman for Berlin's office for refugee affairs said police conducted a broad search overnight at a large shelter for asylum-seekers at the city's now-defunct Tempelhof airport. Four men in their late 20s were questioned but nobody was arrested.
The Polish owner of the truck said he feared the vehicle may have been hijacked. Ariel Zurawski said he last spoke with the driver, his cousin, around noon on Monday and the driver told him he was in Berlin and scheduled to unload Tuesday morning.
The driver Lukasz Urban has been named as the "the first victim of this heinous act of violence" by Poland's prime minister, Beata Szydlo.
His cousin told Polish media that it was clear the man 'fought for his life' during the incident.
On Tuesday, Mr Zurawski showed reporters a photo on his phone of his cousin in a kebab bar around 2pm, the last photo known of him still alive.
The truck smashed into wooden huts serving mulled wine and sausages at the foot of the Kaiser Wilhelm memorial church, one of west Berlin's most famous landmarks, at about 8 p.m. on Monday. Forty-eight people were injured, 18 severely.
News of the arrest of the 23-year-old Pakistani led politicians in Germany and beyond to demand a crackdown on immigration.
Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters: "There is much we still do not know with sufficient certainty but we must, as things stand now, assume it was a terrorist attack."
She added: "I know it would be especially hard for us all to bear if it were confirmed that the person who committed this act was someone who sought protection and asylum."
In a dramatic twist, police later said the suspect had denied the offence and might not be the right man.
"According to my information it's uncertain whether he was really the driver," Police President Klaus Kandt told a news conference.
Berlin police tweeted that they were "particularly alert" because of the denial. "Please be alert," they added.
Die Welt newspaper quoted an unnamed police chief as saying: "We have the wrong man. And therefore a new situation. The true perpetrator is still armed, at large and can cause fresh damage."
German media said the arrested man had jumped out of the driver's cab and run down the street towards the Tiergarten, a vast park in central Berlin. Several witnesses called police, including one who chased the suspect while on the phone, constantly updating officials on his whereabouts.
The chief prosecutor has said it is not known yet if the perpetrator was being instructed from elsewhere.
The attack fuelled immediate demands for a change to Merkel's immigration policies, under which more than a million people fleeing conflict and poverty in the Middle East, Africa and elsewhere have arrived in Germany this year and last.
"We must say that we are in a state of war, although some people, who always only want to see good, do not want to see this," said Klaus Bouillon, interior minister of the state of Saarland and a member of Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU).
Horst Seehofer, leader of the CDU's Bavarian sister party, said: "We owe it to the victims, to those affected and to the whole population to rethink our immigration and security policy and to change it."
The record influx has hit Merkel's ratings as she prepares to run for a fourth term next year, and boosted support for the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD). Senior AfD member Marcus Pretzell blamed Merkel for the attack on Twitter.
AfD leader Frauke Petry said Germany was no longer safe and "radical Islamic terrorism has struck in the heart of Germany".
The incident evoked memories of an attack in Nice, France in July when a Tunisian-born man 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. That was claimed by Islamic State.
The temporary arrested suspect denies the offense.— PolizeiBerlinEinsatz (@PolizeiBerlin_E) December 20, 2016
Therefore we are particulary alert.
Please be also alert.#Breitscheidplatz
The mass influx of migrants and refugees to the European Union has deeply divided its 28 members and fuelled the rise of populist anti-immigration movements that hope to capitalise on public concerns next year in elections in France, Germany and the Netherlands.
Slovakia's Prime Minister Robert Fico said the latest attack would change perceptions of migration. "I think that the cup of patience is beginning to spill over and Europe's public will rightfully expect rather stronger measures," he said.
Nigel Farage of Britain's UK Independence Party tweeted: "Terrible news from Berlin but no surprise. Events like these will be the Merkel legacy."
On Tuesday morning, investigators removed the black truck from the site for forensic examination. People left flowers at the scene and notes, one of which read: "Keep on living, Berliners!" One woman was crying as she stopped by the flowers.
Bild newspaper cited security sources as saying the arrested man was Naved B. and had arrived in Germany a year ago. In legal cases German officials routinely withhold the full name of suspects, using only an initial.
A security source told Reuters the suspect had been staying at a refugee centre in the now defunct Tempelhof airport.
Die Welt said police special forces stormed a hangar at Tempelhof at around 4 a.m. (0300 GMT). A refugee there who gave his name only as Ahmed told Reuters security guards had told him there was a raid at around 4 a.m.
Prosecutors declined to immediately comment on the report.
- Read More: German police storm refugee centre in airport hangar, say reports
- Read More: Merkel 'shocked and deeply saddened' by Berlin market attack
IRISH IN BERLIN
A young Irish woman has told of the shock in Berlin after the suspected terror attack.
Shauna Sheridan (20) from Blanchardstown, Dublin works in an Irish bar with her boyfriend Alex Gutte (21), who is from Berlin.
The bar is called Irish Pub and is across from the Christmas market where the incident occurred.
She told Independent.ie how they were told they missed the situation by "five minutes".
“So we were on the U-bahn from Alexanderplatz, just doing some Christmas shopping," she said.
"We wanted to stop by Zoologischer Garten (stop closest to the market) to get a present for my mum for Xmas because we're flying to Birmingham on Thursday.
“We decided not to go to the market and get off at Ernst-Reuter-Platz instead to make some dinner first. At Ernst-Reuter-Platz we waited for our connecting bus when a bus with ambulance sirens on it drove by in the direction of the market.”
She continued; "We spoke to a Spanish man who we had just got a lighter from and he said he just came from the market and said there were people screaming and running away from the scene, the guy didn’t see it himself but he was shook up too.
“Apparently we just missed the whole situation by five minutes. We arrived home 10 minutes later to see it all over the news.”
Cillian McDonagh, an Irish student who works in a bar in Berlin, says there are systems in place in to make sure all Irish people are accounted for during any potential attack.
He says the Berlin GAA club contacted all of its members to make sure everyone was okay.
“There are over 100 members in the GAA club and we also gave information to the Irish Embassy,” he told the Pat Kenny Show on Newstalk.
“It is the best place to live in Europe which is why I suppose it was such a target."
“People in Germany have been expecting this because Germany has been the leader of the free world."
He explained that raids on Tuesday morning were carried out near the home of Berlin GAA.
“Police have now launched a raid on a refugee shelter which is actually near where Berlin GAA club train every Saturday.”
Jacintha Murphy from Wexford, who has been living in Berlin for two years, was at a Christmas market fifteen minutes away.
The 26-year-old says there was a sense that a terrorist attack was inevitable in Berlin.
"Well there was a large police presence gathered within a short time where I was (Christmas Market at Schloss Charlottenburg) and a lot of emergency vehicle activity even though I wasn't in the immediate vicinity.
"People didn't seem overly panicked where I was though."
Eileen Thornhill (below), from Co Cork, has been living in Berlin for 26 years. She is working in The Irish Times Pub, approximately 4.5km from the incident, and became aware of the attack when friends and family suddenly started calling the bar.
“We all started getting phone calls asking if we were all right and then we turned on the TV and saw what was happening,” she told Independent.ie.
“We are all shocked and in a state of disbelief. I don’t know what to say. But German people are very resilient and good at coping.
“It’s a huge shock."
Eileen drew comparisons with the Nice attack that occurred on Bastille Day, claiming the lives of 86.
“The market is always filled with tourists and the fact that it happened near a holiday makes it more tragic. I suppose that’s why they choose holidays to make the biggest impact possible," she added.
The attack in Berlin came during a night of terror for Europe
In the Turkish city of Ankara, the Russian ambassador was shot dead while he spoke at a press conference at an art gallery.
In Zurich, several people were injured by a gunman at a mosque.
However, police have now said they have found no sign of any radical Islamist or far-right motive by a gunman who killed himself after a shooting at a Zurich mosque which left three worshippers wounded.
Criminal police chief Christiane Lentjes Meili said investigations are continuing in connection with the 24-year-old Swiss citizen who was behind the shootings on Monday.
She told reporters: "There's no indication of any kind of terrorist connection to (the Islamic State group) or any Islamic radicalisation of the suspect. "
Ms Lentjes Meili said an investigation determined that the gunman, who was not named, had also recently stabbed an acquaintance to death.
She said two people who were seriously injured in the mosque attack are recovering.
Police forces and authorities across Europe have upped their security measures today, as it is suggested the suspected terror attacks may be linked.
Foreign Affairs Minister in Ireland, Charlie Flanagan, said he is "horrified" by the atrocity.
"I am horrified by the loss of life in Berlin this evening," he said in an official statement.
"I extend sincere condolences to the families and loved ones of the victims. Our thoughts are also with those injured in this appalling incident.
"Ireland stands in solidarity with Germany," he continued.
"I urge Irish citizens in Berlin to follow the advice of local authorities and to make contact with their families who may be concerned at this concern.
"For updated travel advice from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade please consult @dfattravelwise.
"If you are concerned about Irish citizens in Berlin, please call +353 1 408 2000."
Táiniste and Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald described the as "unspeakably evil" the suspected terrorist attack in Berlin on Monday night.
Ms Fitzgerald said "This appears to have been an attack not just on people innocently going about their business preparing for Christmas, but on freedom itself.
"Our values of democracy and liberty are the target of those who wish to see a world of dark tyranny imposed on us all.
"I know particularly from my international Ministerial counterparts that there is a steady determination to continue to take - and where possible enhance - measures to counteract this threat. And An Garda Siochana will continue to work closely with their international colleagues to this end."
"Ultimately the values we cherish so deeply will prevail."
In Germany, 12 people were killed and 48 were injured in the attack.
The driver, was reported to have fled. police later arrested a suspect but concerns were raised that they had the wrong man.
A passenger in the lorry – which came from Poland and may have been hijacked – was later found dead inside. It is believed he may have been the original driver of the truck.
According to a report in German newspaper Bild, the arrested man is a newly arrived 23-year-old Pakistani refugee.
Reuters is reporting that German Special Forces stormed a hangar at Berlin's defunct Tempelhof airport, which now houses a refugee accommodation centre.
The White House has condemned the apparent attack: "We have been in touch with German officials, and we stand ready to provide assistance as they recover from and investigate this horrific incident," National Security Council spokesman Ned Price said in a statement."
Meanwhile, UK and French authorities have increased security at Christmas markets immediately.
US president-elect Donald Trump has blamed 'Islamist terrorists' for 'slaughter' of Christians in Berlin in a statement released late on Monday.
Trump statement on Berlin pic.twitter.com/Sf8dJVV70J— Bradd Jaffy (@BraddJaffy) December 19, 2016
"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.
He added: "These terrorists and their regional and worldwide networks must be eradicated from teh face of the earth, a mission we will carry out with freedom loving partners."
The Russian ambassador to Turkey died after being shot by a gunman in Ankara.
Andrei Karlov was several minutes into a speech at the embassy-sponsored exhibition in the capital when a man wearing a suit and tie shouted "Allahu akbar" and fired at least eight shots, according to an AP photographer in the audience.
The gunman was a police officer the Turkish Interior Minister has confirmed.
Three others were wounded in the attack but none were seriously hurt and one has already been released from hospital according to Turkish officials.
President Vladimir Putin said the killing was a provocation to try to spoil Russia-Turkey ties and derail Moscow's attempts to find, with Iran and Turkey, a solution for the Syria crisis.
In televised comments, Putin, speaking at a special meeting in the Kremlin, ordered security at Russian embassies around the world to be stepped up and said he wanted to know who had "directed" the gunman's hand.
Meanwhile, details of a call between the Turkish and Russian president have also emerged.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said he had agreed in a telephone call with Russia's Vladimir Putin that their cooperation and solidarity in fighting terrorism should be even stronger after the killing of the Russian ambassador in Turkey.
Erdogan also called the killing a clear provocation aimed at damaging relations between Turkey and Russia at a time of normalisation.
Ankara mayor Melih Gokcek told reporters outside the exhibition centre that the "heinous" attack had aimed to disrupt newly-re-established relations between Turkey and Russiia.
US state department spokesman John Kirby said US officials are aware of reports about the shooting.
"We condemn this act of violence, whatever its source," Mr Kirby said. "Our thoughts and prayers are with him and his family."
Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has said America stands ready to help Turkey investigate the attack.
Mr Karlov, 62, joined the diplomatic service in 1976, and went on to serve as Russia's ambassador to Pyongyang from 2001-2006.
He later worked as the chief of the foreign ministry's consular department, and had been Russia's ambassador to Turkey since 2013.
It was reported that t he gunman shouted in Turkish ahead of the shooting: "Don't forget Aleppo. Don't forget Syria."
The man then yelled: "Stand back. Stand back. Only death will take me out of here.
"Anyone who has a role in this oppression will die one by one."
Several people were wounded in a shooting at a mosque frequented largely by Somali immigrants in Switzerland's largest city while the suspect was shot dead by police.
Police and ambulances swarmed to the scene near the city's rail station, blocked off a nearby road, and secured the Islamic Centre.
On Twitter, the Zurich police department said: "Large operation after shooting at mosque in the Eisgasse. Several injured. Perpetrator on the run."
- Read More: Three injured as gunman storms Zurich mosque
It said the situation was under control and the wounded had been taken to hospital.
There were conflicting news reports about whether the shooting had taken place inside a prayer room itself, or outside.
A Zurich police official said the shooting occurred near the intersection of Militaerstrasse and Eisgasse streets.
Police told German-language daily Blick that three people had been injured.
On Tuesday morning, police confirmed that the gunman was dead.
Attacks by gunmen are rare in Switzerland. The country was shaken in 2013 by at least two multiple-fatality shootings.
The country has a long-standing tradition for men to keep their military rifles after completing compulsory military service - which partly explains a high rate of gun ownership in the country of about 8.2 million people.
Additional reporting by PA and Reuters