White House, Trump con­demn ap­par­ent ter­ror­ist attack; sus­pected driver is ar­rested nearby

The Denver Post - - FRONT PAGE - By Kirsten Grieshaber The As­so­ci­ated Press

BER­LIN» A truck rammed into a crowded Christ­mas mar­ket in cen­tral Ber­lin on Mon­day evening, killing 12 peo­ple and in­jur­ing about 50 as it tore through ta­bles and wooden stands. Po­lice said a sus­pect be­lieved to be the driver was ar­rested nearby and a pas­sen­ger died as paramedics were treat­ing him.

The pop­u­lar Christ­mas mar­ket out­side the Kaiser Wil­helm Me­mo­rial Church was filled with a mix of tourists and lo­cals when the large Sca­nia truck hur­tled into it. Ger­many’s top se­cu­rity of­fi­cial said ini­tial ev­i­dence pointed to an in­ten­tional act, and the White House con­demned “what ap­pears to have been a ter­ror­ist attack.”

Po­lice said early Tues­day that 48 peo­ple were in hos­pi­tals, some of them with se­ri­ous in­juries.

Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump blamed Is­lamist ter­ror­ists but of­fered noth­ing to back up his claim. He said Is­lamists and the Is­lamic State slaugh­ter Chris­tians in their com­mu­ni­ties and places of wor­ship as part of their global ji­had.

Trump said Is­lamic ex­trem­ists must be “erad­i­cated from the face of the Earth” and pledged to carry out that mis­sion with all “free­dom-lov­ing part­ners.”

Mike Fox, vis­it­ing from Birm­ing­ham, Eng­land, said the truck missed him by about 3 yards. Fox said he helped peo­ple who ap­peared to have bro­ken limbs, and that oth­ers were trapped un­der Christ­mas stands.

“You do what you can to help who you can, re­ally. It hap­pened so fast that there was noth­ing we could do to stop it — if we’d tried to stop it we would have been crushed,” Fox said.

The truck, loaded with steel beams, came to a halt on a side­walk on one side of the mar­ket. It had just rammed a large stand called “Fas­ci­na­tion Christ­mas,” tear­ing off one side and knock­ing down a large Christ­mas tree. The nine-foot tree lay in the street, red and golden or­na­men­tal balls still at­tached to its limbs and a golden star at the top.

The crash came less than a month af­ter the U.S. State De­part­ment called for cau­tion in mar­kets and other pub­lic places across Europe, say­ing ex­trem­ist groups in­clud­ing Is­lamic State and al-Qaeda were fo­cus­ing “on the up­com­ing hol­i­day sea­son and as­so­ci­ated events.”

The Is­lamic State and al-Qaeda have called on fol­low­ers to use trucks in par­tic­u­lar to attack crowds. On July 14, a truck plowed into Bastille Day rev­el­ers in the south­ern French city of Nice, killing 86 peo­ple. Is­lamic State claimed re­spon­si­bil­ity for that attack, which was car­ried out by a Tu­nisian liv­ing in France.

Fol­low­ing that attack there were calls to block off and bet­ter pro­tect high-pro­file pub­lic gath­er­ings. There were no bar­ri­ers around the Christ­mas mar­ket Mon­day.

Af­ter the attack, dozens of am­bu­lances lined the streets wait­ing to evac­u­ate peo­ple, and heav­ily armed po­lice pa­trolled.

Among the dead was a pas­sen­ger in the truck, who suc­cumbed as paramedics treated him, Ber­lin po­lice spokesman Win­fried Wen­zel said. Po­lice said later that the man was Pol­ish but didn’t give fur­ther de­tails of who he was or what hap­pened to him.

A sus­pect be­lieved to be the driver was picked up about 1½ miles away, near the Vic­tory Col­umn mon­u­ment. He was be­ing in­ter­ro­gated, Wen­zel said.

The truck was reg­is­tered in Poland, and po­lice said it was be­lieved to be stolen from a build­ing site there. They didn’t give a spe­cific lo­ca­tion.

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

This truck crashed into a Christ­mas mar­ket Mon­day in Ber­lin, killing at least 12 peo­ple and in­jur­ing at least 50. Ger­man of­fi­cials said it was too early to call the crash in­ten­tional. Odd An­der­sen, AFP

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