Berlin Attack: ISIS Claims Responsibility for Deadly Truck-ramming at Christmas Market

Twelve were killed after a truck plowed into a crowded Christmas market; head of federal police says more attacks expected.

A policeman walks at the Christmas market where a terror attack took place a day earlier, Berlin, Germany, December 20, 2016.
Tobias Schwarz, AFP

ISIS claimed responsibility for the the truck-ramming attack that killed 12 people at a Berlin Christmas market on Tuesday, according to ISIS' Amaq news agency. A man arrested on suspicion of involvement in the attack has since been released, Germany's Chief Federal Prosecutor's Office said.

"The investigation up to now did not yield any urgent suspicion against the accused," the prosecutor's office said in a statement, adding that the suspect had made extensive statements during a police hearing, but had denied the offence. 

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Earlier, a senior police chief told Die Welt newspaper: "We have the wrong man, and therefore a new situation. The true perpetrator is still armed, at large and can cause fresh damage," the paper quoted the source as saying. 

Berlin: Scene where a truck plowed through a crowd at a Christmas market, Berlin, Germany, December 20, 2016.
FABRIZIO BENSCH/REUTERS

Twelve people were killed, including an Israeli national, and 48 others were wounded when a truck plowed into a crowd at a Christmas market in the German capital on Monday. Six of the 12 victims were identified as German nationals, the head of Germany's federal police said.

The police chief also said more attacks are expected to follow shortly after Monday's attack. Germany's chief prosecutor said it remained unclear whether the attacker acted alone and whether the attacker, or multiple attackers, had supporters.

German media reported that the 23-year-old suspect arrested after the attack was a Pakistani citizen who came to Germany in late 2015 or early 2016. The German newspaper Bild identified him as Naved B. The suspect denied any involvement in the attack, security officials told DPA.

GRAPHIC CONTENT WARNING: Footage of the scene shortly after a truck rammed into a crowded Christmas market in Berlin. Strachu / YouTube

According to a German security source, the suspect was known to the police for minor offenses, and had been staying in the Tempelhof refugee center.

The Polish owner of the truck told media that the man found dead in the passenger seat was his cousin. The man had suffered gunshot wounds and was most likely dead before the crash occured. German authorities believe the cousin was a victim rather than an accomplice. The owner of the truck said that he doesn't believe his cousin carried out the attack, adding that it's possible the truck was hijacked. He added that he has been unable to contact his cousin.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel condemned the incident on Tuesday, describing it as "a very difficult day for Germany." She said authorities believe it was a "terror attack." Merkel said she is "shocked, shaken and deeply saddened" by the attack, adding it would be "particularly sickening" if it turns out the attacker was an asylum-seeker who sought refuge in Germany.

The crash came less than a month after a U.S. State Department calling for caution in markets and other public places, saying extremist groups including ISIS and Al-Qaida were focusing "on the upcoming holiday season and associated events."

ISIS and Al-Qaida have both called on followers to use trucks in particular to attack public places. On July 14, a truck plowed into a Bastille Day crowd in the southern French city of Nice, killing 86 people. Islamic State claimed responsibility for that attack, which was carried out by a Tunisian living in France.