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Monday, December 19, 2016
HOLIDAY HORROR: 9 Dead, 50 Hurt in Truck Attack in Berlin
A truck plowed into a crowded Christmas market in Berlin Monday night, killing at least nine people and injuring dozens of others in what witnesses described as a deliberate attack.
The large Scania truck with a Poland license plate crashed into the market outside the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church. Television footage showed the truck with its windshield smashed out on the sidewalk alongside the market, with a swarm of ambulances nearby. A large Christmas tree with a gold star on top was toppled over nearby in the street, and tree branches were crushed under the truck's tires.
Police said a suspect believed to be the driver was arrested nearby and a passenger was dead. Authorities estimated that 50 people were injured, but an exact number was not immediately available.
Police said they are still investigating whether the crash was an accident or an attack, but the incident had a chilling echo of the July 14 truck attack in Nice, France that killed 86 people.
ISIS claimed responsibility for the Nice attack, which was carried out by a Tunisian living in France. ISIS and Al Qaeda have both called on followers to use trucks in particular to attack public places.
Die Welt newspaper reported that a Polish TV station had interviewed a man named Ariel Zurawski, who said that his cousin was assigned to drive the truck involved in the incident. Zurawski claimed he had last spoken to his cousin at noon Monday and said he suspected the truck had been hijacked. He added that the truck had been loaded with steel structures weighing 25 tons.
Mike Fox, a tourist from Birmingham, England, told The Associated Press at the scene in Berlin that the large truck missed him by about three meters as it drove into the market, tearing through tables and wooden stands.
"It was definitely deliberate," Fox said. Fox said he helped people who appeared to have broken limbs, and that others were trapped under Christmas stands.
Federal prosecutors, who handle terrorism cases, took over the investigation, according to German Justice Minister Heiko Maas, who said in a tweet "we are mourning with the relatives" of the victims. Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere gave no indication in a statement whether authorities believe the crash was an attack.
Dozens of ambulances lined the streets waiting to evacuate people, and heavily armed police patrolled the area. Police on Twitter urged people to stay away from the area, saying they needed to keep the streets clear for the rescue vehicles.
Monday's incident comes less than a month after the State Department warned U.S. citizens to be cautious in markets and other public places, saying extremist groups were focusing "on the upcoming holiday season and associated events."
Scott Stewart, vice president of tactical analysis for global intelligence firm Stratfor, told FoxNews.com recently that Christmas markets during the month of December were easy targets for terrorists.
“It’s obvious that the threat will always remain,” he said, “but with the holidays and many of the Christmas markets that are normally set up this time of year, it proves to be a tempting soft target."