German police hunt Tunisian man over Berlin attack

PHOTO: AFP

BERLIN - German police are searching for a Tunisian man in connection with the deadly truck attack on a crowd at a Berlin Christmas market, media reported Wednesday.

The man is aged 21 or 23 and known by three different names, according to reports in the daily Allgemeine Zeitung and the Bild newspaper.

Both said asylum office papers believed to belong to the man were found in the cab of the truck.

The documents, which announced a stay of deportation, were found under the driver's seat of the 40-tonne lorry that barrelled through the Christmas market in the heart of the German capital.

Police were reportedly searching for the suspect, who was born in the southern Tunisian city of Tataouine, in the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia.

Twelve people were killed in what German authorities have called a "terrorist attack" in Berlin late Monday, including the Polish driver of the truck.

Lorry ploughs into Berlin Christmas market in possible terror attack

  • A lorry ploughed into a busy Christmas market in central Berlin on Monday (Dec 19).
  • At least nine people were killed and 50 more hurt.
  • Police said that the incident was a possible terror attack.
  • Ambulances and heavily armed officers rushed to the area after the driver mounted the pavement of the market in a square popular with tourists.
  • The scenes were reminiscent of July's deadly truck attack in the French city of Nice.
  • "A man who was apparently driving the truck was detained," a police spokeswoman told AFP.
  • As witnesses described scenes of panic and carnage, police said at least nine were killed and 50 others were injured.
  • Four people were seriously injured.
  • "We are investigating whether it was a terror attack but do not yet know what was behind it," a police spokesman said.
  • Authorities said there was no indication of "further dangerous situations in the city near Breitscheidplatz", where the suspected attack took place.
  • Police added they had no indications as yet to the nationality or age of the arrested man.
  • Germany Chancellor Angela Merkel reacted quickly to the tragedy, with spokesman Steffen Seibert tweeting: "We mourn the dead and hope that the many people injured can be helped".
  • Traditional Christmas markets are popular in cities and towns throughout Germany and have frequently been mentioned by security services as potentially vulnerable to attacks.
  • "It's awful. We were in Berlin for Christmas", said American tourist Kathy Forbes. "We also thought it would be safer than Paris."
  • Australian Trisha O'Neill told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation she was only metres from where the truck smashed into the crowded market.
  • "I just saw this huge black truck speeding through the markets crushing so many people and then all the lights went out and everything was destroyed. I could hear screaming and then we all froze," she added.
  • Europe has been on high alert for most of 2016, with terror attacks striking Paris and Brussels, while Germany has been hit by several assaults claimed by the Islamic State group and carried out by asylum-seekers.
  • An axe rampage on a train in the southern state of Bavaria in July injured five people, and a suicide bombing wounded 15 people in the same state six days later.
  • The attack in Berlin also comes five months after Tunisian extremist Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel ploughed a 19-tonne truck into a crowd on the Nice seafront, killing 86 people.
  • In response to the suspected attack in Berlin, French President Francois Hollande said, "The French share in the mourning of the Germans in the face of this tragedy that has hit all of Europe."

The scenes instantly revived nightmarish memories of the July 14 truck assault in the French Riviera city of Nice, where 86 people were killed by a Tunisian Islamist.

The IS-linked Amaq news agency said "a soldier of the Islamic State" carried out the Berlin carnage "in response to appeals to target citizens of coalition countries".

There was no evidence to back the claim, nor was the perpetrator identified.

Tunisia is one of the biggest suppliers of jihadist fighters, with some 5,500 of its nationals believed to be involved in combat in Syria, Iraq and Libya.