Berlin Christmas Market attacker a “refugee from Pakistan”
The driver of a truck that rammed into a crowded Christmas market in Berlin on Monday night — killing at least 12 people and injuring 48 — is a Pakistani refugee who arrived in Germany earlier this year, according to local reports.
German newspaper Die Welt reported that the suspect had arrived in the country in February of this year.
The man has been arrested in the past for minor criminal offences unrelated to terrorism.
Another Berlin paper, Der Tagesspiegel, reported earlier that he was believed to be either Pakistani or Afghan.
Two senior German officials later confirmed to The Washington Post that the man was, in fact, believed to be a Pakistani national who arrived as an asylum seeker.
German authorities have yet to confirm the identity of the driver or his nationality.
The truck crashed into people gathered around wooden huts serving mulled wine and sausages at the foot of the Kaiser Wilhelm memorial church, which was left as a ruin after World War Two, in the heart of former West Berlin.
The incident evoked memories of an attack in Nice, France in July when a Tunisian-born man drove a 19-tonne truck along the beach front, mowing down people who had gathered to watch the fireworks on Bastille Day, killing 86 people.
That attack was claimed by Islamic State.
German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere had previously said there were indications that the incident in Berlin was an attack.
Police said that the man found dead in the truck was a Polish citizen but added he was not in control of the vehicle.
Reports that the perpetrator is a refugee could further worsen sentiment towards migrants in Germany, where more than a million people fleeing conflict and poverty in the Middle East, Africa and elsewhere have arrived this year and last.
The record influx has hit Chancellor Angela Merkel’s popularity ratings and boosted support for the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD).
Senior AfD member Marcus Pretzell blamed Merkel for the attack on Twitter.
Austrian Interior Minister Wolfgang Sobotka said on ORF radio on Tuesday that he had told the heads of Austria’s regional police forces to intensify surveillance measures, although there was no concrete evidence that an incident was about to happen.
Sobotka also called for biometric and fingerprint checks to be introduced along the Balkan route to better control foreign jihadist fighters’ movements.
Berlin police are investigating leads that the truck had been stolen from a construction site in Poland.
They have taken the truck for a forensic examination.