German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere on Tuesday said the suspect of the Xmas market attack is a Pakistani who had arrived in Germany seeking asylum.
Authorities arrested the suspect about 2 kilometers (1 miles) from the crash site on suspicion of having been at the wheel of the truck.
The suspect, however, has denied involvement in the attack, the interior minister said.
“He denies the act,” de Maiziere told journalists, adding that the suspect is Pakistani and had arrived in Germany on December 31, 2015, seeking asylum.
His request was still pending, the minister said, adding that Monday’s bloodshed had so far not been claimed by the militant Islamic State group or any other militant group.
De Maiziere said however: “We have no doubt that this terrible event was an attack.”
Police chief casts doubt
Berlin’s police chief also voiced doubt that the detained Pakistani man was behind the deadly truck rampage, which would mean the perpetrator remains at large.
“It is indeed uncertain he was the driver,” Klaus Kandt told a press conference.
“The initial evidence has been limited”, said the police chief.
The mass influx of migrants and refugees to the European Union has deeply divided its 28 members and fuelled the rise of populist anti-immigration movements that hope to capitalise on public concerns next year in elections in France, Germany and the Netherlands.
On Tuesday morning, investigators removed the black truck from the site for forensic examination. People left flowers at the scene and notes, one of which read: “Keep on living, Berliners!”
One woman was crying as she stopped by the flowers.
Berlin police are investigating leads that the truck had been stolen from a construction site in Poland.
Women mourn at the scene where a truck ploughed into a crowded Christmas market. -Reuters
Authorities said a Polish man was found shot dead inside the vehicle, but minister de Maiziere said no gun had yet been found.
Bild newspaper cited security sources as saying the suspect was named Naved B. and had arrived in Germany a year ago. In legal cases German officials routinely withhold the full name of suspects, using only an initial.
Local broadcaster rbb cited security sources as saying the man came to Germany via Passau, a city on the Austrian border, on Dec. 31, 2015.
Die Welt said police special forces stormed a hangar at Berlin’s defunct Tempelhof airport at around 4am . It said, without citing its sources, that the arrested man was registered there.
A refugee there who gave his name only as Ahmed told Reuters security guards had told him there was a raid at around 4am.
Prosecutors declined to immediately comment on the report.
‘Fear of evil’
Merkel and de Maiziere both stressed the need for Germans to remain uncowed by the attack.
“We do not want to live paralysed by the fear of evil,” said the chancellor, who discussed the attack by phone with US President Barack Obama and convened a meeting of her security cabinet.
“Even if it is difficult in these hours, we will find the strength for the life we want to live in Germany – free, together and open.”
Other European countries said they were reviewing security.
The cabin of a truck is pulled off the Christmas market past the Zoopalast cinema. -AFP
Austrian Interior Minister Wolfgang Sobotka said he had told the heads of regional police forces to intensify surveillance measures.
He called for biometric and fingerprint checks to be introduced along the Balkan route travelled by many migrants arriving in Europe, in order to better control foreign militant fighters’ movements.
London police said they were reviewing their plans for protecting public events over the festive period.
Flags hung at half-mast around Germany on Tuesday and Berlin Christmas markets were closed for the day out of respect.
The German soccer league announced a minute’s silence at all matches on Tuesday and Wednesday, at which players will wear black ribbons.
Dresden tourist information service said authorities had erected concrete blocks around the Striezelmarkt, one of Germany’s oldest Christmas markets, to increase security.
Festive markets selling ornate, often hand-crafted decorations, seasonal foods and hot spiced wine are a beloved tradition in Germany.
Manfred Weber, head of the centre-right European People’s Party, said: “It’s not an attack on a country; it’s an attack on our way of life, on the free society in which we are allowed to live.”
Twelve people were killed in the assault at a shopping district popular with tourists, and 48 people injured, including 18 who are severely wounded.
Courtesy : Dawn News