Berlin Market Attack

In Germany, 12 people were killed and 48 more wounded in Berlin after a truck drove into a Christmas market around 8 p.m. local time on December 19th 2016.  The truck began plowing into the stalls packed with shoppers and tourists at about 40 miles an hour. Late Monday night, German media, citing local authorities, reported police detained one suspect in the case: a 23-year-old Pakistani refugee named Naved Baluch.

Baluch had denied all involvement in the attack but witnesses had identified him as the driver of the truck.  Baluch was later released and a day later, a 24-year-old Tunisian man, Anis Amri was named as a suspect.  Amri’s identity papers were found inside the cabin of the truck used in Monday’s attack, German security officials said.

It has been reported that Amri arrived in Germany in 2015 and was known to be in touch with radical Islamist groups.  He was very “mobile” and had traveled between Berlin, North Rhine-Westphalia and other cities. He was arrested in August with forged documents en route to Italy, but a judge released him, an official says.

Sources say he had mostly been in Berlin since February and had been registered by German authorities as someone who posed a risk.  His asylum request was refused this year and deportation was attempted but authorities’ attempts to deport him were thwarted because they were unable to establish his identity beyond doubt.  It is believed that he is linked to a recruitment network for ISIS operating in Germany.

After the attack, around 250 police officers raided Berlin’s largest refugee center, which is housed inside a hangar at a defunct airport, and questioned at least four people but no one was arrested.  Germany has taken in far more refugees in the last two years than any other European Union country—as many as 1 million refugees in 2015.

After a four day Europe-wide manhunt, Anis Amri was shot dead by Italian police.  In a video released by a news agency linked to ISIS, Amri was seen pledging his allegiance to its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.  ISIS claimed it had inspired Monday’s attack. The terror group’s affiliated Amaq News Agency described the perpetrator as a “soldier of the Islamic State” who had acted in response to calls for attacks in the West.  The attack was similar to the Bastille Day attack on a boardwalk in Nice, France, in which 84 people were killed after a Tunisian-born French citizen drove a truck through crowds of people in July.

The Polish driver whose hijacked truck was used to crash into a Berlin Christmas market was shot in the head several hours before the attack and could not have tried to prevent it as previously thought, according to a report.  Lukasz Urban, 37, suffered knife wounds and a gunshot to the head in the truck cabin about 2½ to 3½ hours before the 8 p.m. attack on Dec. 19.  It is believed that he died in a struggle to regain control of his truck and stop the pending attack.