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Truck rams into German Christmas market, killing 12 people

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    In this screen grab taken from video, emergency services attend the scene, after an attack by a truck at a Christmas market, in Berlin today.

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    Police guarded a Christmas market after a truck ran into the crowded Christmas market in Berlin, Germany today.

BERLIN >> A truck rammed into a crowded Christmas market in central Berlin on Monday evening, killing 12 people and injuring nearly 50 as it smashed through tables and wooden stands. Police said a suspect believed to be the driver was arrested nearby and a passenger died as paramedics were treating him.

The popular Christmas market outside the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church was filled with a mix of tourists and locals when the large Scania truck hurtled into it. Germany’s top security official said initial evidence pointed to an intentional act, and the White House condemned “what appears to have been a terrorist attack.”

Police said early Tuesday that 48 people were in hospitals, some of them with serious injuries.

Mike Fox, visiting from Birmingham, England, told The Associated Press that the truck missed him by about three meters (yards). Fox said he helped people who appeared to have broken limbs, and that others were trapped under Christmas stands.

“You do what you can to help who you can, really. It happened so fast that there was nothing we could do to stop it — if we’d tried to stop it we would have been crushed,” Fox said.

The truck, which was loaded with steel beams, came to a halt on a sidewalk on one side of the market. It had just rammed a large stand called “Fascination Christmas,” tearing off one side and knocking down a large Christmas tree. The three-meter tree lay in the street, red and gold ornamental balls still attached to its limbs and a golden star at the top.

The crash came less than a month after the U.S. State Department called for caution in markets and other public places across Europe, saying extremist groups including Islamic State and al-Qaida were focusing “on the upcoming holiday season and associated events.”

The Islamic State group and al-Qaida have both called on followers to use trucks in particular to attack crowds. On July 14, a truck plowed into Bastille Day revelers 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.

Following that attack there were calls to block off and better protect high-profile public gatherings. There were no barriers around the Christmas market on Monday.

After the attack, dozens of ambulances lined the streets waiting to evacuate people, and heavily armed police patrolled. Authorities on Twitter urged people to stay away from the area, saying they need to keep the streets clear for rescue vehicles.

Among the dead was a passenger in the truck, who succumbed as paramedics treated him, Berlin police spokesman Winfried Wenzel said. Police said later that the man was a Polish national, but didn’t give further details of who he was or what happened to him.

A suspect believed to be the driver was picked up about 2 kilometers (1½ miles) away, near the Victory Column monument. He was being interrogated, Wenzel said. The truck was registered in Poland, and police said it was believed to be stolen from a building site there. They didn’t give a specific location.

The Polish owner of the truck said he feared the vehicle, driven by his cousin, may have been hijacked. Ariel Zurawski said he last spoke with the driver around noon, and the driver told him he was in Berlin and scheduled to unload Tuesday morning. “They must have done something to my driver,” he told TVN24.

Federal prosecutors, who handle terrorism cases, took over the investigation, according to German Justice Minister Heiko Maas. In Washington, White House National Security Council spokesman Ned Price said the United States was in contact with German officials and ready to help in the investigation and response.

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump blamed Islamist terrorists, though it was unclear what that assessment was based on. He said Islamic extremists must be “eradicated from the face of the earth” and pledged to carry out that mission with all “freedom-loving partners.”

But German officials said it was too early to call the crash 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.”

Even so, some politicians were pointing fingers. Marcus Pretzell, a prominent member of the anti-migration Alternative for Germany party, lashed out at the government of Chancellor Angela Merkel, saying on Twitter: “When will the German state of law strike back? When will this cursed hypocrisy finally stop? These are Merkel’s dead! #Nice #Berlin.”

Germany has not experienced any mass-casualty attacks by Islamic extremists, but has been increasingly wary since two attacks by asylum-seekers in the summer that were claimed by the Islamic State group. Five people were wounded in an ax rampage on a train near Wuerzburg and 15 in a bombing outside a bar in Ansbach, both in the southern state of Bavaria. Both attackers were killed.

Those attacks, and two others unrelated to Islamic extremism in the same weeklong period, helped stoke tensions in Germany over the arrival last year of 890,000 migrants.

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    • The dumm Germans are now terrified . Ha Ha Ha, they are inviting millions of “Troyans” hostile Muslim invaders into their country. To allow Muslim immigration is the demise of the Western world.

  • RADICAL ISLAMIC TERRORIST
    There, I dared to say it … ….. ….
    Everywhere islam grinds against the rest of humanity chaos ensues. It is called the bloody borders of islam and it is a fact too often repeated.
    Not every islamic individual is a terrorist – but almost every terroristic act is created by an islamist.
    And, I refuse to capitalize islam. So I don’t want to hear about it.

  • Let’s just be thankful that Barry Hussein Soetoro won’t have enough time to let a million of his cousins into our country where they’re free to plow cars into crowds and blow things up and then have the ACLU defend them as victims of religious intolerance. We have a real president again in a month. America is back again.

    • I am SO thankful! But I am deplorable – Because I feared Waldo’s plan to increase their “invasion” by over 500% to what the supreme most high exalted one King Hussein was allowing. Interesting though how Waldo garnered her mass votes from the densely populated liberal urban cities with lattes abundant – the very places where these murderers in the name of Allah target. But no. King Hussein, Waldo, & her followers do not believe it was the deplorable’s fear which caused a movement of resistance, they believe it was the Russians fault!

    • Yup, the German chancellor should be fired immediately with her policy of open borders letting in millions of Islamic terrorists into their country as refugees. Look what they are doing to the citizens !

      • This is great news! Let them feel the pain of their politically correct, kumbaya save the world BS, same BS lies HitLIARy would have shoved down our throats to continue Muslim by birth Obama and his brotherhood legacy by allowing undocumented refugees with unknown motives into our country while millions of US military vets live in poverty whom served and protected our country. Little do these S_T_U_P_I_D “D” voting millennials know what the world is really like outside of our border since they’ve been living in the basement with their parents for the last 35+ years watching gangsta-rap and taking Chicano Studies in the 13th grade.

    • Well said bumbai. Merkel should be sentenced to hanging for high treason. Just like the Nazis at the Nuremberg trials, even though she is at the leftist end.

  • C’mom folks lets not rush to judgement. It could have been angry Trump supporters or under-educated hateful white guys who carried out this attack. There’s zero evidence ,historical or otherwise, that the “religion of peace” had anything to do with this attack.

    • Educated liberal leftist according to the Move On Organization must create an “echo chamber” protesting the Trumps victory over their crooked Hillary. John Podesta liberal ideas to create chaos according to the Open Society objectives.

    • Angry old white guys lives matter! We’re all with you Kirk Caldwell! We must build a rail spur to Syria to help those undocumented refugees get here faster!

  • Multiculturalism. It’s a beautiful thing, eh Angela? This is how the German peoples’ generosity and compassion is repaid by these Islamic savages. Germany will well regret it’s well-intentioned immigrant settlement program. obama? He wants tens of thousands more of these walking liabilities flooding our streets. After 8 long years, his destruction of America is nearly complete. Sounds like his World Apology Tour was a colossal FAILURE, just like his “presidency”.

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