Tuesday 20 August 2019

Suspect arrested after nine killed in truck incident at Berlin Christmas market

Police guard a Christmas market in Berlin. (AP/Michael Sohn)
Police guard a Christmas market in Berlin. (AP/Michael Sohn)
A truck has run into a crowded Christmas market in the centre of Berlin

A truck has rammed into a crowded Christmas market in central Berlin, killing at least nine people as it tore through tables and wooden stands.

Police said about 50 people were injured, several critically, when the vehicle crashed into the market outside the popular market at the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church.

Spokesman Winfried Wenzel said the fatalities included a passenger in the truck, who died as paramedics treated him at the scene. He offered no details on how the passenger was injured.

He also said a suspect believed to be the driver was arrested nearby .

Mr Wenzel said the truck was registered in Poland, but officers are still investigating where it came from and who the driver was.

The Polish owner of the truck said he feared the vehicle, originally driven by his cousin, may have been hijacked. Ariel Zurawki said he last spoke with the driver around noon, and was told he was in Berlin and scheduled to unload on Tuesday morning.

Mr Zurawki told TVN24: "They must have done something to my driver."

Berlin's senior security official, state interior minister Andreas Geisel, told RBB television it was too early to say whether it was an attack, and said that reports the truck may have been hijacked were "pure speculation".

Federal prosecutors, who handle terrorism cases, have taken over the investigation, according to justice minister Heiko Maas, who said in a tweet "we are mourning with the relatives" of the victims.

Interior minister Thomas de Maiziere gave no indication in a statement whether authorities believe the crash was an attack.

Television footage showed a large Scania truck with its windscreen smashed on the pavement alongside the market. A large Christmas tree with a gold star on top was toppled over nearby in the street.

It came less than a month after the US State Department called for caution in markets and other public places, saying extremist groups including Islamic State and al Qaida were focusing "on the upcoming holiday season and associated events".

IS and al Qaida have called on followers to use trucks in particular to attack public places.

On July 14, a truck ploughed into a Bastille Day crowd in the southern French city of Nice, killing 86 people. IS claimed that attack, which was carried out by a Tunisian living in France.

Mike Fox, a tourist from Birmingham, said the truck missed him by about three metres as it drove into the market.

"It was definitely deliberate," he said, adding that he helped people who appeared to have broken limbs, and that others were trapped under Christmas stands.

Dozens of ambulances lined the streets waiting to take the injured away, and heavily armed officers patrolled the area. Police on Twitter urged people to stay away from the area, saying they need to keep the streets clear for rescue vehicles.


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