Ber­lin truck ram­page sus­pect still at large

Amir con­demns attack

Kuwait Times - - FRONT PAGE -

A Pak­istani asy­lum-seeker sus­pected of plough­ing a lorry into a Ber­lin Christmas mar­ket, killing 12, was re­leased yes­ter­day for lack of ev­i­dence, leav­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tors to pur­sue their hunt for the real per­pe­tra­tor of the mas­sacre. “The ac­cused, de­tained over the attack on the Ber­lin Christmas mar­ket on De­cem­ber 19, 2016, was let go on this evening on the or­ders of the fed­eral pros­e­cu­tor,” the pros­e­cu­tor’s of­fice said in a state­ment. “The foren­sic tests car­ried out so far did not pro­vide ev­i­dence of the ac­cused’s pres­ence dur­ing the crimes in the cab of the lorry.”

A “sol­dier” of the Is­lamic State group car­ried out the truck attack, a news agency linked to the mil­i­tants said yes­ter­day. “A sol­dier of the Is­lamic State car­ried out the Ber­lin op­er­a­tion in re­sponse to ap­peals to tar­get cit­i­zens of coali­tion coun­tries,” the IS-linked Amaq news agency said in a state­ment posted on­line.

The Pak­istani man was ar­rested af­ter Ger­many daily Die Welt said a wit­ness saw the sus­pected driver jump out of the ve­hi­cle’s cab and trailed the in­di­vid­ual for about two kilo­me­tres, tip­ping off po­lice about his lo­ca­tion. But doubts had grown through­out the day over whether the sus­pect held in cus­tody overnight ac­tu­ally com­mit­ted the atroc­ity, spark­ing fears of a killer on the run.

HH the Amir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah Al-Ah­mad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah yes­ter­day sent a ca­ble of con­do­lences to Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel over the vic­tims of the attack. The Amir sharply con­demned the attack as a heinous crim­i­nal act that tar­geted in­no­cents, and breaches all re­li­gions and hu­man val­ues. He also re­it­er­ated Kuwait’s sup­port to all mea­sures Ger­many is tak­ing to con­front ter­ror­ist acts that aim at dis­rupt­ing its se­cu­rity and sta­bil­ity.

HH the Amir fur­ther reaf­firmed Kuwait’s un­shak­able po­si­tion based on re­ject­ing all forms and man­i­fes­ta­tions of ter­ror­ism, and back­ing the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity in its fight against ter­ror­ism. HH the Crown Prince Sheikh Nawaf AlAh­mad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah and HH the Prime Min­is­ter Sheikh Jaber Mubarak AlHa­mad Al-Sabah sent the Ger­many chan­cel­lor sim­i­lar ca­bles.

Ber­lin’s po­lice chief Klaus Kandt had ear­lier said “we may have a dan­ger­ous crim­i­nal in the area”, and an­nounced that se­cu­rity would be boosted while urg­ing “height­ened vig­i­lance”. In­ves­ti­ga­tors asked the pub­lic to send them any photos and video footage. Twelve peo­ple were killed when the truck tore through the crowd Mon­day, smash­ing wooden stalls and crush­ing vic­tims, in scenes rem­i­nis­cent of July’s deadly attack in the French Riviera city of Nice. An­other 48 peo­ple were in­jured, 24 of whom were re­leased from hospi­tal by late yes­ter­day.

The man­gled truck came to a halt with its wind­screen smashed, a trail of de­struc­tion and scream­ing vic­tims in its wake, with Christmas trees top­pled on their side. Merkel - who vis­ited the scene of the car­nage for a minute’s si­lence and then joined a me­mo­rial ser­vice in the ad­ja­cent Kaiser Wil­helm Me­mo­rial Church - la­beled the deadly ram­page a likely “ter­ror­ist” attack. Merkel said that, if it was con­firmed that the killer had been part of the coun­try’s re­cent refugee in­flux, this would be “par­tic­u­larly sick­en­ing in re­la­tion to the many, many Ger­mans who are in­volved ev­ery day in help­ing refugees”.

In­te­rior Min­is­ter Thomas de Maiziere said the Pak­istani be­ing held had in­sisted he was in­no­cent and had not sur­faced on any ter­ror watch lists. De Maiziere vowed those re­spon­si­ble would be hunted down. The Pol­ish-reg­is­tered ve­hi­cle, which was loaded with steel beams, had cut a bloody swathe of 60-80 m into the mar­ket in the on­ce­di­vided city’s in­ner west.

At least six of those killed were Ger­man cit­i­zens, author­i­ties said, while coun­tries from Is­rael to Spain said their na­tion­als were among those in­jured in the busy tourist spot. A Pol­ish man, killed with a gun­shot, was found on the truck’s pas­sen­ger seat, said de Maiziere. He was be­lieved to be the ve­hi­cle’s reg­is­tered driver. The Pol­ish owner of the lorry, Ariel Zu­rawski, con­firmed Mon­day that the driver - his 37-year-old cousin - was miss­ing, telling AFP: “We don’t know what hap­pened to him... I’ve known him since I was a kid. I can vouch for him.”

Sur­vivors re­counted har­row­ing sto­ries of near misses and car­nage as fes­tive par­ty­ing turned to death and de­struc­tion in sec­onds. Bri­ton Emma Rush­ton was en­joy­ing a glass of mulled wine when the Christmas scene was shat­tered by a loud crash and screams. “We heard a re­ally loud bang and saw some of the Christmas lights to our left start­ing to be pulled down,” she told Sky news. “Then we saw the ar­tic­u­lated ve­hi­cle go­ing through peo­ple and through the stalls and just pulling ev­ery­thing down, and then ev­ery­thing went dark.”

Ger­man flags flew at half-mast yes­ter­day and mourn­ers placed flow­ers and can­dles at the site. As dark­ness fell, Ber­lin’s land­mark Bran­den­burg Gate was lit in the Ger­man col­ors black, red and gold in honor of the vic­tims. The gov­ern­ment de­clared that the city’s 60-odd Christmas mar­kets - af­ter a one-day vol­un­tary stop­page out of re­spect for the vic­tims - should con­tinue be­cause “we must not let our free way of life be taken from us”.

Europe has been on high alert for most of 2016, with bloody ji­hadist at­tacks strik­ing Paris and Brus­sels. Ger­many also suf­fered two at­tacks in July in the south­ern state of Bavaria com­mit­ted by asy­lum seek­ers and claimed by the Is­lamic State group. An axe ram­page by an Afghan or Pak­istani man on a train wounded five peo­ple, and a sui­cide bomb­ing by Syr­ian asy­lum seeker left 15 peo­ple in­jured six days later. The ar­rival of 890,000 refugees last year has po­lar­ized Ger­many, with crit­ics call­ing the in­flux a se­ri­ous se­cu­rity threat.

Mar­cus Pret­zell of the anti-im­mi­gra­tion Al­ter­na­tive for Ger­many party la­belled the Christmas mar­ket vic­tims “Merkel’s dead”. The attack in Ber­lin comes five months af­ter Tu­nisian Is­lamist ex­trem­ist Mo­hamed La­houaiej Bouh­lel ploughed a truck into a crowd on the Nice seafront, killing 86 peo­ple. Merkel re­ceived calls of sup­port from a string of for­eign lead­ers, in­clud­ing French Pres­i­dent Fran­cois Hol­lande, Turkey’s Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan and Greek Prime Min­is­ter Alexis Tsipras, her spokesman Steffen Seib­ert said.

As well as shar­ing their con­do­lences, they “stressed the need for Euro­pean sol­i­dar­ity in the fight against ter­ror­ism,” Seib­ert said. The White House said US Pres­i­dent Barack Obama had of­fered Merkel as­sis­tance fol­low­ing “the hor­rific ap­par­ent ter­ror­ist attack”. — Agen­cies

BER­LIN: Foren­sic ex­perts ex­am­ine the scene yes­ter­day around a truck that crashed into a Christmas mar­ket near the Kaiser Wil­helm Me­mo­rial Church. — AFP

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