BERLIN: German authorities on Tuesday released a Pakistani asylum-seeker suspected of driving a truck into a Berlin Christmas market and killing 12 people due to a lack of evidence.
Islamic State, however, claimed responsibility for the attack on Tuesday. “The executor of the operation.. in Berlin is a soldier of the Islamic state and he executed the operation in response to calls to target nationals of the coalition countries,” the militant group’s AMAQ news agency said on Tuesday.
The truck smashed into wooden huts serving mulled wine and sausages on Monday evening at the foot of the Kaiser Wilhelm memorial church, one of west Berlin’s most famous landmarks. Forty-five people were injured, 30 severely. The Chief Federal Prosecutor’s Office said in a statement it had been unable to prove that the suspect had been in the cabin of the truck at the time of the attack and said he had denied any involvement.
Earlier, Die Welt newspaper quoted an unnamed police chief as saying: “We have the wrong man and therefore, a new situation. The true perpetrator is still armed, at large and can cause fresh damage.” Commenting on the suspect’s release on Tuesday evening, German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere told ZDF television: “That’s why it is true that one cannot rule out that the perpetrator is still at large.”
He said there was still no doubt the Berlin incident had been an attack but the motive remained unclear. He also said it was not yet known how many foreigners were among the victims of the attack, adding that no children had been among the dead.
News of the arrest of the 23-year-old Pakistani had led politicians in Germany and beyond to demand a crackdown on immigration, but Chancellor Angela Merkel urged caution. “There is much we still do not know with sufficient certainty but we must, as things stand now, assume it was a terrorist attack,” she told reporters earlier on Tuesday.
The truck belonged to a Polish freight company and its rightful driver was found shot dead in the vehicle. The Polish truck driver had arrived hours earlier in the German capital and spoken to his wife about 3 p.m., according to his cousin.
When she called again an hour later, there was no answer. “At 3.45 p.m. you can see the movement on the GPS (Global Positioning System). The car moved forward and back. As if someone was learning to drive it,” said the cousin, Ariel Zurawski, who was also the boss of the trucking company. “I knew something was wrong.”
Merkel joined hundreds of mourners on Tuesday evening at a memorial service at the church near the site of the attack. Her spokesman said she had spoken with the leaders of seven European countries and also with US President Barack Obama, who all assured her of their support for Germany. Security officials in Germany and Europe have warned for years that Christmas markets could present an easy target for militant attacks.
courtesy : express tribune