On Monday, an 18-wheel truck barrelled into a German Christmas market and killed at least 12 people while injuring dozens more. The attack was reminiscent of a July incident in Nice, France, where a truck killed 70 people at a Bastille Day celebration. ISIS later claimed responsibility for that attack and called the man its “soldier.” In Berlin, police have discovered that the man in custody may not be the true suspect in what German Chancellor Angela Merkel is calling a likely “act of terrorism.”
In Berlin, police now say that the attacker drove “deliberately into the crowd” (150 feet deep, in fact) with no visible effort to stop at 40 mph. The truck was also hauling 25 tons of steel, all of which supports authorities’ belief that this was no accident: “Our investigators are working on the assumption that the truck was intentionally driven into the crowd at the Christmas market on Breitscheidplatz.”
Authorities found a dead man in the passenger seat. They also arrested a 23-year-old Pakistani asylum seeker, who entered Germany this year, a mile away from the attack site. He has denied responsibility, and police do believe he may be the wrong man. Police Chief Klaus Kandt told the public to remain vigilant, for the real attacker may still be at large. In addition, investigators discovered that one of the attack victims may have sustained gun wounds, so there’s the possibility of an armed suspect.
The incident arrives at a time of heightened terror warnings in Germany, and this summer, authorities told residents to stockpile goods after terror threats and shooting rampages increased in volume. Chancellor Angela Merkel is “shocked, shaken and deeply saddened” by the market event. She also stated, “We must, as things stand, assume it was a terrorist attack.” Earlier this month, Merkel supported a ban on full-face veils in Germany.
It must be noted that the New Yorker recently detailed an ISIS publication’s (Rumiyah) suggestion for jihadis to attack public gatherings with trucks. The suggestion appeared in the magazine’s November issue:
An article in the November issue, accompanied by a photograph of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, urged jihadis to attack outdoor festivals, markets, political rallies, and pedestrian-clogged streets: “The method of such an attack is that a vehicle is plunged at a high speed into a large congregation of kuffar” — non-believers — “smashing their bodies with the vehicle’s strong outer frame while advancing forward — crushing their heads, torsos, and limbs under the vehicle’s wheels and chassis.” The article provided a list of vehicles best suited to killing. Next to a picture of a U-Haul, it said that the ideal truck is “double-wheeled, giving victims less of a chance to escape being crushed by the vehicle’s tires.”
We’ll continue to monitor developments in Berlin as they develop.
UPDATE #1 – 1:15pm EST: CNN reports that police have released the man who was detained after this market attack. Officials still warn that a true suspect has not been apprehended.