Twelve people have been killed after a truck ploughed into shoppers at a Christmas market in Berlin. Dozens more were injured, some seriously. Police were initially cautious about the motives behind the incident, describing what took place as a ‘probable terrorist attack’. But at a press conference this morning, Angela Merkel said ‘we must assume it was an act of terrorism’. The German chancellor also said that:
This is a very difficult day. I, like millions in Germany, am outraged, shocked and deeply saddened by what happened yesterday in Berlin. Twelve people who were still with us yesterday, who were looking forward to Christmas and had plans for the holiday, are no longer among us. A horrific and incomprehensible act has robbed them of their lives. More than 40 other people are injured, fighting for their lives or their health.
The terrible incident unfolded last night when the lorry careered into the busy market in Berlin’s Breitscheidplatz – a public square close to the city centre – at around 8.15pm. Despite earlier uncertainty – and the characteristic caution of many German politicians – details are slowly starting to emerge. A man, believed to be an Afghan or Pakistani asylum seeker who arrived in Germany in February, was arrested in connection with the incident, but has since been released by police. We do know that a passenger in the lorry – a Polish national – was found dead at the scene. German police had this to say in a statement:
A suspected person was arrested in the vicinity of #Breitscheidplatz. Whether it is the driver of the lorry is currently under consideration. The passenger of the truck, which entered the #Breitscheidplatz Christmas market, was found dead at the scene.
Police are still at an early stage in their investigation but already the parallels with the lorry attack in Nice in July, in which 86 people were killed, seems hauntingly apparent.