Dozen dead in Berlin Christmas market 'attack'

Dozen dead in Berlin Christmas market 'attack'
A dozen people were killed in Berlin on Monday night, when a truck ploughed into pedestrians at a Christmas market, police said.
3 min read
19 December, 2016
The truck ploughed into a Christmas market [AFP]

At least twelve people were killed after a truck ploughed into a Berlin Christmas market on Monday night, police sources confirmed, with initial reports suggesting it was a deliberate attack.

Ambulances and police rushed to the area after the driver drove up the pavement of the market in a central square popular with tourists, in scenes reminiscent of the deadly truck attack in the French city of Nice in July.

"There are at least 50 injured... some seriously. Some are dead," a police spokeswoman told AFP

Police subsequently said twelve had been killed and that one person has been detained over the incident - which comes less than a week before Christmas.

A German police spokeswoman told AFP that a man who was apparently driving the truck had been detained while the passenger was dead.

Security sources cited by DPA news agency said that the man behind the wheel was an asylum seeker from Afghanistan or Pakistan who arrived in Germany in February. 

The daily Tagesspiegel said the man was known to police but for minor crimes, not links to terrorism.

The Polish owner of the lorry 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.

German authorities said there was no indication of "further dangerous situations in the city near Breitscheidplatz", where the suspected attack took place.

Chancellor Angela Merkel reacted quickly to the tragedy, with spokesman Steffen Seibert tweeting: "We mourn the dead and hope that the many people injured can be helped."

"We are investigating whether it was a terror attack but do not yet know what was behind it," a police spokesman said.

Germany has been shaken this year by several assaults claimed by the Islamic State group and carried out by asylum-seekers.

An axe rampage on a train in the southern state of Bavaria in July injured five people, and  a suicide bombing wounded 15 people in the same state six days later. 

In another case, a 16-year-old German-Moroccan girl in February stabbed a police officer in the neck with a kitchen knife, wounding him badly, allegedly on IS orders.

Attacks rock France

The attack in Berlin also comes five months after Tunisian extremist Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel ploughed a 19-tonne truck into a crowd on the Nice seafront, killing 86 people. 

The bloodshed -as people were watching a fireworks display on the Bastille Day public holiday on July 14 - further traumatised a France already reeling from a series of militant attacks.

Six people have been charged so far over alleged links to the 31-year-old killer but investigators have yet to prove that any of them knew what he was planning. 

IS moved quickly after the attack to claim Bouhlel as one of its followers. Investigators said he suffered from depression and appeared to have become radicalised very quickly. 

The massacre on the palm-fringed Promenade des Anglais was the latest in a series of militant attacks that have rocked France over the past two years. 

The violence began with the January 2015 attacks on a satirical newspaper and a Jewish supermarket in Paris and continued 10 months later with coordinated strikes on the capital's Bataclan concert hall, national stadium and cafe terraces.