Merkel sum­mons se­cu­rity lead­ers in wake of attack

‘There is still a lot that we don’t know about this act’

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel sum­moned Ger­many’s top se­cu­rity of­fi­cials yes­ter­day to dis­cuss the gov­ern­ment’s re­sponse to the deadly truck attack in Ber­lin that claimed at least 12 lives. Nearly 50 peo­ple were in­jured when a truck plowed into a pop­u­lar Christmas mar­ket filled with tourists and lo­cals out­side the Kaiser Wil­helm Me­mo­rial Church near Ber­lin’s Zoo sta­tion late Mon­day.

“There is still a lot that we don’t know about this act with suf­fi­cient cer­tainty,” Merkel told re­porters in Ber­lin, in her first per­sonal state­ment fol­low­ing the in­ci­dent. “But we must, as things stand, as­sume it was a ter­ror­ist attack.” Po­lice, too, said that the truck ap­peared to have been driven in­ten­tion­ally. So far, no group has claimed re­spon­si­bil­ity. Author­i­ties ar­rested a man about 2 kilo­me­ters (11/2 miles) from the crash site on sus­pi­cion of hav­ing been at the wheel of the truck.

Nu­mer­ous Ger­man me­dia re­ported that the sus­pect was a Pak­istani cit­i­zen. Footage showed the sus­pect, his head cov­ered in a white sheet, be­ing pushed into a po­lice car shortly af­ter the attack. Ber­lin’s pub­lic ra­dio sta­tion RBB-In­fora­dio cited se­cu­rity sources say­ing the man en­tered Ger­many on Dec 31, 2015. News agency dpa, also cit­ing un­named se­cu­rity sources, said he came to Ger­many as a refugee in Fe­bru­ary 2016. Ber­lin’s Tagesspiegel news­pa­per re­ported that the man was known to po­lice for mi­nor crimes. Merkel, who has been crit­i­cized for al­low­ing in large num­bers of mi­grants, ad­dressed head-on the pos­si­bil­ity that an asy­lum-seeker was re­spon­si­ble.

‘Mak­ing an ef­fort’

“I know that it would be par­tic­u­larly hard for us all to bear if it were con­firmed that a per­son com­mit­ted this act who asked for pro­tec­tion and asy­lum in Ger­many,” Merkel said. “This would be par­tic­u­larly sick­en­ing for the many, many Ger­mans who work to help refugees ev­ery day and for the many peo­ple who re­ally need our help and are mak­ing an ef­fort to in­te­grate in our coun­try.”

A spokesman for Ber­lin’s of­fice for refugee af­fairs said po­lice con­ducted a large-scale search overnight at a large shelter for asy­lum­seek­ers at the city’s now-de­funct Tem­pel­hof air­port. Four men in their late 20s were ques­tioned but no­body was ar­rested, Sascha Lan­gen­bach told The As­so­ci­ated Press. Among the dead was a man in the truck, who suc­cumbed as paramedics treated him, Ber­lin po­lice spokesman Win­fried Wen­zel said. Po­lice said later that the man was a Pol­ish na­tional, but didn’t give fur­ther de­tails of who he was or what hap­pened to him.

The Pol­ish owner of the truck said he feared the ve­hi­cle may have been hi­jacked. Ariel Zu­rawski said he last spoke with the driver, his cousin, around noon, and the driver told him he was in Ber­lin and sched­uled to un­load yes­ter­day morn­ing. “They must have done some­thing to my driver,” he told TVN24.

Un­der the cloak of help

Ger­many has not so far ex­pe­ri­enced any mass-ca­su­alty at­tacks by Is­lamic ex­trem­ists, but has been in­creas­ingly wary since two at­tacks by asy­lum-seek­ers in the sum­mer that were claimed by the Is­lamic State group. Five peo­ple were wounded in an ax ram­page on a train near Wuerzburg and 15 in a bomb­ing out­side a bar in Ans­bach, both in the south­ern state of Bavaria. Both at­tack­ers were killed.

Those at­tacks, and two oth­ers un­re­lated to Is­lamic ex­trem­ism in the same week­long pe­riod, con­trib­uted to ten­sions in Ger­many over the ar­rival last year of 890,000 mi­grants. Far-right groups and a na­tion­al­ist party seized on Mon­day’s attack, blam­ing Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel for what had hap­pened. “Un­der the cloak of help­ing peo­ple Merkel has com­pletely sur­ren­dered our do­mes­tic se­cu­rity,” Frauke Petry, the co-chair­woman of the Al­ter­na­tive for Ger­many party, wrote.

Man­fred We­ber, a mem­ber of Merkel’s con­ser­va­tive bloc and leader of the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment’s big­gest po­lit­i­cal group­ing, cau­tioned against sweep­ing ver­dicts but said it was im­por­tant to en­sure that ex­trem­ists didn’t en­ter the coun­try. The Ger­man gov­ern­ment said Merkel spoke yes­ter­day with Pres­i­dent Barack Obama, who ex­pressed his con­do­lences. In Wash­ing­ton, White House Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil spokesman Ned Price said the United States was ready to help in the in­ves­ti­ga­tion and re­sponse. — AP

BER­LIN: (From Left) The Mayor of Ber­lin Michael Mueller, Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel, Ger­man In­te­rior Min­is­ter Thomas de Maiziere and Ger­man For­eign Min­is­ter Frank-Wal­ter Stein­meier at­tend a flower cer­e­mony at the Kaiser-Wil­helm Me­mo­rial Church. — AP

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Kuwait

© PressReader. All rights reserved.