12 killed, dozens wounded in Berlin truck attack

Berlin, Dec 20 (IANS) At least 12 persons are now dead and about 50 others injured in the Monday night attack at a Christmas market here after a truck ploughed into a crowded, media reports said on Tuesday.

This was alleged to be a targeted terrorist attack very similar to the Nice attack in July.

Several local media reported that the driver, who was arrested shortly after near the Victory Column monument, was a Pakistani or Afghan national.

He is said to have arrived as a refugee in Germany in February, Efe news agency reported.

Berlin police suspect the truck was stolen from a construction site in Poland, neighbouring Germany.

The incident took place around 8.15 p.m. local time, when the truck ploughed through a crowded pedestrian area on the Breitscheidplatz, which marks the centre of former West Berlin.

It is the present-day City West, the truck rammed into several people visiting the traditional market.

In addition to those killed in the market, a passenger in the truck was also found dead, while 48 people were taken to hospital with injuries, some serious.

Security forces urged locals to stay inside their homes and keep the roads clear for ambulances and fire engines.

In July in a similarly designed attack a 19 tonne cargo truck had deliberately driven into crowds celebrating Bastille Day on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice, France, killing 86 people and injuring 434.

German Federal Minister of the Interior Thomas de Maiziere, who made a statement just after midnight, however, refused to label the brutal incident a terrorist attack.

Although he acknowledged that “a lot points in that direction”.

The US intelligence agencies had earlier issued notices for its citizens cautioning them of possible terror threats at Christmas markets across the Europe.

The German Federal Prosecutor’s Office, which has jurisdiction over terrorist matters, has opened an investigation in parallel to ones initiated by the Prosecutor’s Office in Berlin.

The truck drove about 50 meters through the busy Christmas market, destroying stalls and food stands.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed her grief for the victims in a message published by her spokesperson on Twitter, while German President Joachim Gauck, said he was shocked by the “awful evening” in Berlin and the whole country.

Germany was hit by two terror attacks in July, the first carried out by an Afghan minor refugee on a commuter train in Wurzburg and the second by a Syrian asylum seeker in Ansbach, who died when he detonated a backpack with explosive devices.

The attacks have contributed to the continuing polarisation and controversy over Germany’s pro-refugee policy, as the country has opened its borders to about 1.3 million seekers since the beginning of 2015.

–IANS

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