Is­lamic State claims Christmas market at­tack

The Denver Post - - NATION & WORLD - By David Ris­ing and Frank Jor­dans

berlin» The Is­lamic State claimed re­spon­si­bil­ity Tues­day for a truck at­tack on a crowded Berlin Christmas market that Ger­man au­thor­i­ties said came right out of the ex­trem­ist group’s play­book, in­flict­ing mass ca­su­al­ties on a soft tar­get fraught with sym­bolic mean­ing.

The Mon­day night at­tack on the pop­u­lar market by the Kaiser Wil­helm Me­mo­rial Church in the heart of for­mer West Berlin left 12 dead and 48 in­jured — the first mass ca­su­alty at­tack by Is­lamic ex­trem­ists car­ried out on Ger­man soil.

Ger­man se­cu­rity forces were still hunt­ing for the per­pe­tra­tor af­ter re­leas­ing a man from cus­tody for lack of ev­i­dence.

The claim of re­spon­si­bil­ity car­ried on the Is­lamic State’s Amaq news agency de­scribed the man seen flee­ing from the truck as “a sol­dier of the Is­lamic State” who “car­ried out the at­tack in re­sponse to calls for tar­get­ing cit­i­zens of the Cru­sader coali­tion.”

Ger­many is not in­volved in anti-Is­lamic State com­bat op­er­a­tions but has Tor­nado jets and a re­fu­el­ing plane sta­tioned in Turkey in sup­port of the coali­tion fight­ing mil­i­tants in Syria, as well as a frigate pro­tect­ing a French air­craft car­rier in the Mediter­ranean, among other as­sets.

The claim of re­spon­si­bil­ity came not long af­ter Ger­man pros­e­cu­tors said they had re­leased a man picked up near the scene of the at­tack, ini­tially sus­pected of driv­ing the truck.

The man, a Pak­istani cit­i­zen who moved to Ger­many last year, was taken into cus­tody based on a de­scrip­tion from wit­nesses of a suspect who jumped out of the truck and fled af­ter the at­tack.

Even be­fore his re­lease, of­fi­cials had ex­pressed doubt the man was be­hind the at­tack.

“We may still have a dan­ger­ous crim­i­nal out there,” warned Berlin police chief Klaus Kandt, whose of­fice urged peo­ple to be “par­tic­u­larly vig­i­lant” and re­port “sus­pi­cious move­ment” us­ing a spe­cial hot­line.

Al­though Ger­many had not seen any suc­cess­ful mass-ca­su­alty Is­lamic ex­trem­ist at­tacks un­til Mon­day, at­tempts and re­cent at­tacks in neigh­bor­ing France and Bel­gium had made many feel it was in­evitable.

“We’ve all been pre­pared that some­thing like this could hap­pen, so we were not sur­prised,” said eco­nom­ics stu­dent Max­i­m­il­ian Much.

The 24-year-old Ber­liner said the at­tack hit home be­cause he’d of­ten vis­ited the Christmas market with his girl­friend, but that he wouldn’t let him­self be led by emo­tion.

“I’m not go­ing to change my life­style now,” he said. “The chances that I get killed in a car or bike ac­ci­dent are big­ger.”

Ger­many’ pros­e­cu­tor Peter Frank, told re­porters the at­tack on the pop­u­lar market was rem­i­nis­cent of July’s deadly truck ram­page in Nice, France, and ap­peared to fol­low in­struc­tions pub­lished by the Is­lamic State.

“There is also the prom­i­nent and sym­bolic tar­get of a Christmas market, and the modus operandi that mir­rors at least past calls by ji­hadi ter­ror or­ga­ni­za­tions,” Frank said.

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