UPDATE 2: The Guardian reports that the police have arrested a man they suspect to be the truck driver. The passenger has died in an ambulance. Their Berlin correspondent writes, “The lorry was registered to a company in Stettin, Poland. It was on its way back to Poland, having started its journey in Italy. It was due to unload in Berlin where the driver was due to have a break. The head of the company has said the registered driver was his cousin. He’s said he’d put his hand in the fire that his cousin would not have been behind this attack. The strong suspicion is that the vehicle was hijacked at some point during its journey.”
UPDATE 1: Police have learned that the truck left a Polish delivery company earlier in the afternoon. The company lost communications with the driver around 4:00PM local time and believe the truck was hijacked.
Moments ago, a truck drove through a crowded Christmas market on Breitscheidplatz in Berlin killing nine people and injuring several others.
At the moment, it is unclear whether this is a planned terrorist attack or horrific accident. The market is not easily accessed by a truck of this size, making an accident less likely.
The Guardian’s Berlin correspondent reports,
According to latest news reports in Berlin a lorry plowed into a Christmas market this evening, driving over a pavement and crashing into market stalls and knocking people over. The market is one of Berlin’s most popular, on Breitscheidplatz in the western centre of the city.
Police say the lorry came from the direction of Budapester Straße, over the pavement, coming to a halt by a Christmas tree in front of the Gedächtnis Kirche, or Memorial Church. Known locally as the jagged tooth, the church was bombed in World War II, and left more or less in its ruined state as a memorial to the victims war. It’s one of the most popular tourist sites in Berlin, and very close to the popular Berlin Zoo.
Police have cleared the area and volunteers have set up an information point for relatives looking for news of missing loved ones.
Emma Rushton was a witness on the scene when the incident happened. She told CNN that the truck did not attempt to slow down. She saw no less than 10 injured people lying on the ground before she fled the scene. Rushton sent out a tweet to let her friends and family know that she was OK.
— Emma Rushton (@ERushton) December 19, 2016
Given the US State Department’s statement in late November, the possibility of a terrorist attack is under consideration. Last month they released the following statement:
The Department of State alerts US citizens to the heightened risk of terrorist attacks throughout Europe, particularly during the holiday season. US citizens should 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-Qaida, and their affiliates continue to plan terrorist attacks in Europe, with a focus on the upcoming holiday season and associated events.
People are already seeing parallels to the Bastille Day attack in Nice, France earlier this year where a terrorist drove a truck through a crowd killing 80 and injuring more than 400.
Keep the families of the victims in your thoughts and prayers.