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Berlin 'terrorist attack': At least 9 dead, 50 wounded as truck rams crowd at christmas market

News Agencies | Updated on: Wed, 21 Dec 2016 11:58:04 IST

A lorry ploughed into a busy Christmas market in Berlin, killing at least nine people and wounding 50 in what police said was a possible terror attack.Watch the video here

While the co-driver, confirmed as a Polish national, died in the crash, the driver managed to escape.

Although, a 23-year-old man of Pakistani origin was arrested as the suspected driver but was later freed from custody after police said that he was no longer a suspect.

According to BreitBart, the Islamic State media arm Amaq Agency revealed that the attacker was a member of the terror group and that it was the first time the group has made such a claim while the attacker involved was still alive.

Ambulances and police rushed to the area after the driver drove up the pavement of the market in a central square popular with tourists, in scenes reminiscent of the deadly truck attack in the French city of Nice in July.

"There are at least 50 injured... some seriously. Some are dead," a police spokeswoman told AFP.

Germany has been shaken this year by several assaults claimed by the Islamic State group and carried out by asylum-seekers.

An axe rampage on a train in the southern state of Bavaria in July injured five people, and a suicide bombing wounded 15 people in the same state six days later.

In another case, a 16-year-old German-Moroccan girl in February stabbed a police officer in the neck with a kitchen knife, wounding him badly, allegedly on IS orders.

Photo: AFP Photo

The arrival of 890,000 refugees last year has polarised Germany and misgivings run particularly deep in the ex-communist east, even more so since IS-linked attacks in July carried out by Syrian asylum-seekers.

The attack in Berlin also comes five months after Tunisian extremist Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel ploughed a 19-tonne truck into a crowd on the Nice seafront, killing 86 people.

The bloodshed -- as people were watching a fireworks display on the Bastille Day public holiday on July 14 -- further traumatised a France already reeling from a series of jihadist attacks.

Six people have been charged so far over alleged links to the 31-year-old killer but investigators have yet to prove that any of them knew what he was planning.

IS moved quickly after the attack to claim Bouhlel as one of its followers. Investigators said he suffered from depression and appeared to have become radicalised very quickly.

The massacre on the palm-fringed Promenade des Anglais was the latest in a series of jihadist attacks that have rocked France over the past two years.

The violence began with the January 2015 attacks on a satirical newspaper and a Jewish supermarket in Paris and continued 10 months later with coordinated strikes on the capital's Bataclan concert hall, national stadium and cafe terraces.

The attacks have hardened attitudes on security and immigration, fuelling the rise of the far-right ahead of next year's presidential election

Another 11 people were arrested lat week in France suspected of helping to arm Bouhlel.

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

The square is at the end of the Kurfuerstendamm boulevard which was packed with holiday shoppers.

Police said the truck made it as far as 80 metres into the Christmas market before it came to a halt.

Europe has been on high alert for most of 2016, with terror attacks striking Paris and Brussels, while Germany has been hit by several assaults claimed by the Islamic State group and carried out by asylum-seekers.

An axe rampage on a train in the southern state of Bavaria in July injured five people, and a suicide bombing wounded 15 people in the same state six days later.

In another case, a 16-year-old German-Moroccan girl in February stabbed a police officer in the neck with a kitchen knife, wounding him badly, allegedly on IS orders.

The arrival of 890,000 refugees last year has polarised Germany, with critics calling the influx a serious security threat.

The attack in Berlin also comes five months after Tunisian extremist Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel ploughed a 19-tonne truck into a crowd on the Nice seafront, killing 86 people.

In response to the Berlin tragedy, France beefed up security at its own Christmas markets.

"The French share in the mourning of the Germans in the face of this tragedy that has hit all of Europe," President Francois Hollande said.

The Nice bloodshed -- as people were watching a fireworks display on the Bastille Day holiday on July 14 -- further traumatised a France already reeling from a series of jihadist attacks.

The United States labelled it an apparent "terrorist attack" and pledged its support.

President-elect Donald Trump blamed "Islamist terrorists" for a "slaughter" of Christians in the German capital.

- With inputs from news agencies

First published: 21 December 2016, 11:58 IST
 
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