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German Official: ‘No Doubt’ Deadly Attack On Christmas Market Was Intentional

A Pakistani asylum-seeker has been detained by authorities. The man denies any involvement in the attack, and police are not entirely certain that he was the driver of the truck that killed 12 people.

A Christmas market in central Berlin is seen on Tuesday, a day after a truck smashed into the market, killing 12 people and injuring dozens more.

A suspect is in custody a day after a truck attack on a Christmas market in Berlin killed 12 people and wounded 48 more, including some with severe injuries — but authorities are casting doubt on whether they have the right person.

The suspect denies involvement, and police officials said at a press conference on Tuesday that they are not entirely certain the man in custody was the person driving the truck during the crash. Another man, found inside the truck with a gunshot wound, has died. There have been no further arrests, authorities said.

On Twitter, the Berlin police said that because the “temporary arrested suspect” denied the charges, they are on particularly high alert.

“Please also be alert,” they told Berlin residents.

There is “no doubt” the crash on Monday was an intentional attack, German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said at a press conference Tuesday. Chancellor Angela Merkel had previously said authorities “must assume” the attack was an act of terrorism.

De Maiziere identified the detained suspect as a Pakistani asylum-seeker whose application for asylum had not been fully processed. He was “known to authorities” but not suspected of having any ties to terrorism, the interior minister said.

The Associated Press reports that the suspect was arrested about a mile and a half from the crash site.

Speaking earlier Tuesday, Merkel noted that the attack was still under investigation and that much was unknown, the AP reports. It adds:

“But Merkel, who has been criticized for allowing in large numbers of migrants, addressed head-on the possibility that an asylum-seeker was responsible.

” ‘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,’ 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.’ “

Candles left by mourners are reflected in Christmas balls on Tuesday, near the crime scene where a truck drove into a crowded Christmas market on Monday. At least a dozen people are dead, and nearly 50 injured

Merkel was expected to visit the site of the attack later on Tuesday.

The victims of the attack included a Polish citizen found in the truck, who appeared to have been shot and died of his injuries, officials said; the weapon has not been found.

The owner of a Polish trucking company told a German broadcaster he had identified the man to police as the truck’s original driver, and the first apparent victim of the attack, the AP reports.

“His face was swollen and bloodied. It was really clear that he was fighting for his life,” trucking company owner Ariel Zurawski told TVN, according to an AP translation.

As the Two-Way reported yesterday, last month, the U.S. State Department warned of a “heightened risk of terrorist attacks throughout Europe, particularly during the holiday season.”

Christmas markets like the one that was attacked are extremely popular in Germany, NPR’s Soraya Sarhaddi-Nelson explained Monday:

“They start about four weeks before Christmas. You have to picture little huts, with all sorts of handicrafts, and they sell all kinds of foods and of course the very famous Glühwein, or mulled wine, which is the most popular drink that you would get there. It’s just a fun place for family and friends to get together.”

De Maiziere said that the market in Berlin will be closed on Tuesday out of respect for the victims and their families, but that other Christmas markets in Germany will continue to operate as planned.

Officials say security — already heightened at the markets — will be beefed up even more.

The interior senator for the state of Berlin also said Tuesday that New Year’s celebrations in Berlin are going to continue as scheduled.


This is a developing story. Some things that get reported by the media will later turn out to be wrong. We will focus on reports from police officials and other authorities, credible news outlets and reporters who are at the scene. We will update as the situation develops.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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