Updated 5:30am ET, Dec. 20
A truck was driven into a busy Christmas market in central Berlin at around 8pm local time on Monday, killing 12 people and injuring around 50 more in the area. The police on Tuesday said they are treating it as a “terrorist attack.”
The driver escaped from the vehicle and fled, but was arrested soon after. His nationality has not been confirmed, but multiple local media outlets are reporting that he was a Pakistani asylum seeker. Police raided the refugee shelter in the disused Tempelhof airport where the man was said to be registered.
Andreas Geisel, the interior minister for Berlin, confirmed that the arrested man is currently being questioned.
“This is a very dark day,” chancellor Angela Merkel said at a press conference on Tuesday morning. “We have to regard this as a terrorist attack.” She added that it would be particularly disgusting if it is confirmed that the attacker is a refugee who has been given asylum and protection in Germany. “It would be especially disgusting for the many people, who work with refugees, and the many people, who really need our protection,” she said.
“Even though these hours are difficult, we will find the strength for the life that we want to live in Germany: free, united and open,” the chancellor said.
The large Scania articulated truck with Polish license plates drove across the sidewalk into the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church market near Charlottenburg, coming to a stop by the Christmas tree in the middle of the market.
The passenger in the truck, who died on the spot, has been identified as the registered driver by his cousin, Ariel Żurawski, the owner of the truck company in Poland.
On Monday evening, Żurawski told Polish TV station TVN24 (link in Polish) that his cousin was was due to unload steel from Italy in Berlin and drive back to Poland. The driver’s wife hadn’t been able to get through to him on the phone from around 4pm on Monday.
A witness told CNN that the truck was traveling about 40 mph through the crowded pedestrian area and did not slow down.
This is a developing story.