A truck plowed into an evening Christmas market near Berlin’s famed Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, killing at least 12 people and injuring 48, according to Berlin police.
Deutsche Presse-Agentur quickly reported that police were treating the incident as an attack. A person in the passenger seat was found dead while the driver fled the scene; a person was later arrested in Breitscheidplatz on suspicion of being connected to the attack, but Berlin police tweeted that was yet to be determined.
Berlin police later tweeted that the truck was from a Polish construction site and may have been stolen; steel beams were on the load platform. The dead person in the passenger seat was Polish and may have been the original driver.
German newspaper Die Welt said the driver of the truck at the time of the attack was a Pakistani refugee who arrived in the country this February. The paper added that “there were indications for a possible attack on a Christmas market in Berlin for several days.”
Images from the scene showed a black semi truck with a heavily damaged windshield.
— Tobias Schneider (@tobiaschneider) December 19, 2016
Police, who issued a tweet asking Berliners to stay at home and “don’t spread rumors,” said the truck drove up onto a walkway packed with market stalls at about 8 p.m. The truck was reportedly going about 40 mph.
The third issue of the Islamic State’s Rumiyah magazine, released in early November, instructed would-be jihadists to use a heavy truck, such as a U-Haul, to target random crowd. Specific suggested targets were “large outdoor conventions and celebrations, pedestrian-congested streets (High/Main streets), outdoor markets, festivals, parades, political rallies.”
“In general, one should consider any outdoor attraction that draws large crowds. When deciding on the target, attention should be given to that target’s accessibility by the vehicle,” the article stated. “The target should be on a road that offers the ability to accelerate to a high speed, which allows for inflicting maximum damage on those in the vehicle’s path. It is essential for the one seeking this method of operation to understand that it is not conditional to target gatherings restricted to government or military personnel only. All so-called ‘civilian’ (and low-security) parades and gatherings are fair game and more devastating to Crusader nations.”
Before Thanksgiving, the State Department warned U.S. citizens traveling to Europe to “exercise caution at holiday festivals, events, and outdoor markets.”
“Credible information indicates the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or Da’esh), al-Qa’ida, and their affiliates continue to plan terrorist attacks in Europe, with a focus on the upcoming holiday season and associated events. U.S. citizens should also be alert to the possibility that extremist sympathizers or self-radicalized extremists may conduct attacks during this period with little or no warning,” said the message. “Terrorists may employ a wide variety of tactics, using both conventional and non-conventional weapons and targeting both official and private interests.”
ISIS’ Amaq news agency had not yet issued a claim of credit for the attack.
National Security Council spokesman Ned Price issued a statement sending “our thoughts and prayers to the families and loved ones of those killed, just as we wish a speedy recovery to all of those wounded.”
“We also extend our heartfelt condolences to the people and government of Germany,” Price said. “We have been in touch with German officials, and we stand ready to provide assistance as they recover from and investigate this horrific incident. Germany is one of our closest partners and strongest allies, and we stand together with Berlin in the fight against all those who target our way of life and threaten our societies.”
This story was updated at 9:15 p.m. EST