At least 12 dead in ‘terrorist attack’ after truck crashes into Berlin Christmas market
A tractor trailer loaded with steel beams plowed into a crowd of Christmas shoppers in Berlin Monday — killing at least 12 people and injuring nearly 50 others in what officials are investigating as an act of terrorism.
The popular central city market outside the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church was teeming with tourists and locals when the massive black truck came barreling through the market — toppling tables and upending wooden stands.
Shoppers had little time to react as the rig roared through at what one witness described as 40 mph — picking off panicked pedestrians before coming to a destructive halt.
“I think everybody thought there was a terrorist attack happening,” witness Shandana Durrani, who was 20 feet away from the truck when it rammed several market stalls, told CNN.
“People dropped what they were carrying and ran for cover. It seemed like the truck just jumped the curb and took a wrong turn and barreled through the crowd.”
Durrani, an American who moved to Berlin a few months ago, said she might have been a victim if she had not slowed her pace to respond to a text message.
“I ran behind a stall to get away — but there was really no place to go because it was happening so fast,” she said.
Mike Fox, a tourist from Birmingham, England, said the truck missed him by just a few feet.
A large truck has stormed through a Christmas market in the German capital of Berlin killing nine people and injuring many others. One
person Paki Muslim has been arrested.
“It happened so fast that there was nothing we could do to stop it,” Fox said. “If we’d tried to stop it we would have been crushed.”
Berlin police said that a suspect — believed to be the truck driver — was arrested nearly two miles away, and was being questioned early Tuesday.
German authorities did not identify the driver.
ISIS had not taken responsibility for the Berlin crash as of Monday night.
A passenger in the vehicle, which had a smashed windshield, was among those killed in the crash.
The truck itself is owned by a Polish man, whose cousin told broadcaster TVN24 that he feared the vehicle had been hijacked.
One witness described seeing bodies beneath the truck.
German authorities were slow to call the incident terrorism, or even intentional.
“I don’t want to use the word ‘attack’ yet at the moment, although a lot speaks for it,” Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere told ARD television. “There is a psychological effect in the whole country of the choice of words here, and we want to be very, very cautious and operate close to the actual investigation results, not with speculation.”
But diplomats and leaders from other countries wasted no time condemning the attack.
Ned Price, a spokesman for the U.S. National Security Council, said in a strongly worded statement that the incident “appears to have been a terrorist attack.”
“The United States condemns in the strongest terms what appears to have been a terrorist attack on a Christmas Market in Berlin, Germany, which has killed and wounded dozens,” Price said in a statement.
“Germany is one of our closest partners and strongest allies, and we stand together with Berlin in the fight against all those who target our way of life and threaten our societies.”
President-elect Donald Trump tweeted about the attack before issuing an official statement.
“Innocent civilians were murdered in the streets as they prepared to celebrate the Christmas holiday. ISIS and other Islamic terrorists continuously slaughter Christians in their communities and places of worship as part of their global jihad,” Trump said in the statement.
“These terrorists and their regional and worldwide networks must be eradicated from the face of the earth, a mission we will carry out with all freedom-loving partners.”
German Minister of Justice Heiko Maas said that he mourned with the families of the victims and was looking into the cause.