Date
20 August 2017
Policemen investigate the scene where a truck plowed into a crowded Christmas market in Berlin, killing 12 people. Photo: Reuters
Policemen investigate the scene where a truck plowed into a crowded Christmas market in Berlin, killing 12 people. Photo: Reuters

IS claims Berlin truck attack; perpetrator may still be at large

Islamic State is claiming responsibility for Monday’s attack in which a man drove a truck into a Berlin Christmas market, killing 12 people.

“He executed the operation in response to calls to target nationals of the coalition countries,” its AMAQ news agency said, according to Reuters.

On Tuesday, German authorities released a Pakistani asylum-seeker suspected of carrying out the attack for lack of evidence.

They said the real perpetrator may still be on the run.

The truck smashed into wooden huts serving mulled wine and sausages on Monday evening at the foot of the Kaiser Wilhelm memorial church, one of west Berlin’s most famous landmarks. Forty-five people were injured, 30 severely, Reuters said.

Germany’s interior minister said that despite the claim, investigators were following various other leads.

“We just heard about the supposed claim of responsibility by this so-called Islamic State that is in fact a gang of terrorists,” Minister Thomas de Maiziere told ARD broadcaster. “There are several leads that investigators are following now.”

The Chief Federal Prosecutor’s Office said in a statement it had been unable to prove that the suspect had been in the cabin of the truck at the time of the attack and said he had denied any involvement.

Earlier, Die Welt newspaper quoted an unnamed police chief as saying: “We have the wrong man. And therefore a new situation. The true perpetrator is still armed, at large and can cause fresh damage.”

Commenting on the suspect’s release, de Maiziere told ZDF television: “That’s why it is true that one cannot rule out that the perpetrator is still at large.”

He said there was no doubt the Berlin incident had been an attack but the motive remained unclear. He also said it was not yet known how many foreigners were among the victims of the attack but no children had been among the dead, according to Reuters.

News of the arrest of the 23-year-old Pakistani had led politicians in Germany and beyond to demand a crackdown on immigration but Chancellor Angela Merkel urged caution.

The truck belonged to a Polish freight company and its rightful driver was found shot dead in the vehicle. The Polish truck driver had arrived hours earlier in the German capital and spoken to his wife about 3 p.m., according to his cousin.

When she called again an hour later, there was no answer.

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CG/RA

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