World

Berlin attack suspect identified as refugee

Man drives stolen truck through Christmas market in German capital, leaving 12 dead and dozens more injured

BERLIN He first killed the truck driver, a Polish national who transported steel beams into Germany.

Then, taking the truck still laden with its cargo, he headed for a Christmas market in Berlin. As he approached the market around 7pm, he switched the truck's lights off, reported the Daily Mail online.

He then increased the truck's speed to 65kmh, mounted the pavement, and rammed the truck into the crowd at the Breitscheidplatz square in the German capital's main shopping area, killing 12 and injuring 49.

A man was arrested by German police soon after but they are unsure if the man they have in custody is the culprit, the BBC reported.

"It is in fact uncertain whether that really was the driver," Berlin police head Klaus Kandt said yesterday.

The man detained, who has denied involvement, arrived in Germany from Pakistan at the end of last year. He was captured in a park 2km away after reportedly fleeing the Christmas market in west Berlin.

At the scene, one shell-shocked tourist described the carnage. "He did not want to stop, he just kept on driving."

Australian Trisha O'Neill, who had sat metres from the scene of the tragedy, described the horror she saw as the huge truck bore down on her.

I saw this huge black truck speeding through the market and crushing so many people. witness Trisha O’Neil

"We sat just behind the stall having a mulled wine. Then all of a sudden there was a big boom," she told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

"I saw this huge black truck speeding through the market and crushing so many people. Then all the lights went out and everything was destroyed. I could hear screaming and we all froze.

"Then suddenly people started to move and lift all the wreckage off people, trying to help whoever was there," she said, adding that there was "blood and bodies everywhere".

Ambulances and heavily armed police rushed to the scene, which is near one of Berlin's main shopping streets in an area heavily frequented by tourists, reported AFP.

A Tunisian student described the scenes of carnage that he saw when he arrived just after the truck had ended its deadly journey through the crowd.

"We arrived just after and there were all these people lying on the ground," the student said. "I do not feel safe here anymore."

Ms O'Neill said everything happened in a flash.

"People, including children and older people, were not moving - people were crying and I burst into tears. All the police and ambulances came and we decided to walk away from the streets and go somewhere safe," she said. "I am shaking and scared. It all happened so fast."

The crash occurred in the shadow of the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church. The damage it sustained in a World War II bombing raid has been preserved as a warning to future generations.

Germany has been hit this year by a string of attacks claimed by the Islamic State and carried out by asylum seekers.

But it had until now been spared the large-scale death tolls seen in France and Belgium. - AFP

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