German police have said they were treating as “a probable terrorist attack” the killing of 12 people when a speeding lorry cut a bloody swathe through a Berlin Christmas market.
At least 48 more were wounded when the truck tore through the crowd Monday. It further smashed wooden stalls and crushed victims, scenes reminiscent of July’s deadly attack in the French Riviera city of Nice.
Images showed the mangled truck with its windscreen smashed and a trail of destruction in its wake. Christmas trees toppled on their side and festive stalls obliterated into splinters.
Survivors speak on the crash
Australian Trisha O’Neill, recalled the horror of “this huge black truck speeding through the markets crushing so many people”, with “blood and bodies everywhere.”
“It wasn’t an accident,” said another visitor, Briton Emma Rushton. She was enjoying a glass of mulled wine when the festive scene was shattered by a loud crash and screams.
“We heard a really loud bang and saw some of the Christmas lights to our left starting to be pulled down,” she told Sky news.
“Then we saw the articulated vehicle going through people and through the stalls and just pulling everything down and then everything went dark.”
Police detains man
A man believed to have deliberately mowed the Scania truck loaded with steel beams for 80 metres (yards) has been detained by the police.
The suspect was an asylum seeker believed to be from Pakistan or Afghanistan. He was said to have arrived in Germany via the so-called Balkans route in February. That is according to unnamed security sources cited by DPA news agency.
Europe has been on high alert for most of 2016. This followed the jihadist attacks that struck Paris and Brussels, while Germany has been hit by several assaults. They were claimed by the Islamic State group and carried out by asylum-seekers.
An axe rampage on a train in Bavaria state in July wounded five people. And a suicide bombing left 15 people injured in the same state six days later.
The arrival of 890,000 refugees last year has polarised Germany, with critics calling the influx a serious security threat.
And now, Marcus Pretzell of the anti-immigration Alternative for Germany party has labelled the Christmas market victims “Merkel’s dead”.
The attack in Berlin comes five months after a similar attack. A Tunisian extremist Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel ploughed a truck into a crowd on the Nice seafront, killing 86 people.
President Francois Hollande said “the French share in the mourning of the Germans in the face of this tragedy”.
The United States condemned an apparent “terrorist attack”, while President-elect Donald Trump blamed “Islamist terrorists” for a “slaughter” of Christians.