Truck thief kills 12 at Berlin Christmas market

The Berlin police said early this morning that the killing of at least 12 people and the wounding of dozens more when a truck plowed through a Christmas market last night was “a suspected terrorist attack,” the New York Times reports.

Nativity above Christkindlmarkt in Chicago, 2016 (Ann Fisher / Flickr CC)

“We have to assume this was a terrorist attack,” the BBC quoted German Chancellor Angela Merkel as saying in a brief statement earlier today.

At about 8 PM Monday, the truck jumped the sidewalk near the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church and decimated the scene of the annual Christmas market in the capital city. One man identified as a Polish national was found dead in the cab of the truck, and another has been arrested in connection with the attack. The truck was reported stolen from a worksite in Poland that is only about a two-hour drive from Berlin.

FOX News reported that the man who was arrested came to Germany as a refugee, citing news reports in Germany. If it’s confirmed that the man, said to be of Middle Eastern descent, entered the country when Mrs Merkel opened the border to victims of conflicts in Africa and the Middle East and elevated tensions among German and European residents, this fact could increase pressure on Germany to tighten security around refugees.

UPDATE 12/20 at 18:00 EST … German authorities released the man they arrested described in the preceding paragraph, saying they had insufficient evidence to hold him. ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attack. And when I think about it, it becomes clear that even closing borders to refugees would not have prevented this attack. All someone needs is a passport (and a truck he can use as a weapon).

The National Security Council in Washington released a statement, saying:

The United States condemns in the strongest terms what appears to have been a terrorist attack on a Christmas market in Berlin.

At least 45 people sustained injuries, some of them severe, police said. “People were sitting holding their heads, there were pools of blood on the floor,” the Times quoted Emma Rushton, a British tourist visiting Berlin for the first time, as saying.

The Christmas markets are a centuries-old tradition in Germany. They open on the first Sunday of Advent every year, which is always four Sundays before but not including December 25, and run through Christmas Eve. German communities in several cities in the US, including Chicago and Baltimore, have modeled Christmas markets after those in Germany. Several tourists come every year to visit the markets.

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Paul Katula
Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.