Truck plows through crowd at Christmas market in Berlin; 9 dead

Paramedics work at the site of an accident at a Christmas market on Breitscheidplatz square near the fashionable Kurfuerstendamm avenue in the west of Berlin, Germany, December 19, 2016. (REUTERS/FABRIZIO BENSCH)

UPDATE (2:45 p.m.) – German police say they’ve arrested a suspect believed to be the driver of a truck that rammed into a crowded Christmas market in the center of Berlin, killing at least nine and causing multiple injuries.

Police spokesman Winfried Wenzel told ZDF public television that the man was arrested near the scene.

No further details were immediately available.


BERLIN – At least nine people were killed and dozens injured when a truck plowed through a crowd at a popular Christmas Market in Berlin late Monday, police said.

Polizei Berlin confirmed the deaths on Twitter, although it’s still not clear what happened to the attacker or attackers.

The attack happened in Breitscheidplatz, a major square in the center of the German capital. Every year, the city of Berlin hosts a Christmas market there, which has “more than 100 beautifully decorated market stands and Christmas booths as well as 70 fairground rides.”

The market is situated near the fashionable Kurfuerstendamm avenue and the attack happened at the foot of the landmark Kaiser Wilhelm memorial church, which was kept as a ruin after World War II.

Both the Berliner Zeitung newspaper and the Berliner Morgenpost reported the truck ran into the market outside the landmark Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church on Monday evening.

A photo posted by the Morgenpost showed damaged tables and stalls.

Police have not yet stated whether the incident was an accident or some kind of an attack on the market.

Many in Germany have been fearful of a rise in terrorism since the country took in more than a million migrants and refugees last year, mostly fleeing conflict in the Mideast.

German prosecutors were already investigating a 12-year-old boy who allegedly attempted to set off a nail bomb at a Christmas market in the southern city of Ludwigshafen last week.

The German-born son of Iraqi parents is alleged to have tried to set off the device at the Christmas market on Nov. 26, and again outside city hall on Dec. 5, Focus magazine reported, citing security sources.

In the second failed attempt, a passer-by spotted the backpack containing the device and reported it to authorities. Inside they found a glass jar packed with firecrackers with nails taped to it, Focus reported.

Police said it would have burned but would not have exploded.

Stephan Meyer, the parliamentary spokesman on security issues for Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative bloc, said the boy apparently had turned rapidly to Islamic extremism.

“This shows how quickly the radicalization of a young person, a child, can take place,” he said.

The attack in Berlin called to mind the brutal July terrorist assault in Nice, France, that saw 86 people killed and hundreds injured by an Algerian member of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS.)

In the Nice attack, officials said Mohamed Lahouaiyej Bouhlel deliberately drove a 19-ton truck into thick crowds on the French Riviera celebrating the country’s independence day.

 

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