The death toll in the Berlin Christmas market attack has risen to 12, with around 48 seriously injured.
Meanwhile, the Berliner Zeitung has reported that the driver was, according to security agencies, an Afghan national who arrived in Germany as a refugee in February.
His name has yet to be confirmed, as it was understood the man had used several different names since his arrival.
At least nine people are dead and 50 injured after a truck ploughed into a busy Christmas market in central Berlin on Monday evening (German time).
Police confirmed that a 7.5-tonne truck with Polish plates drove into the market, travelling, according to witnesses, 60km/h-65km/h for around 80 metres, killing nine and injuring at least 50.
The Berliner Zeitung reported a scene of “devastation” with several of the injured so seriously hurt that they had to be resuscitated by paramedics at the scene.
Police were quick to confirm they were treating the incident as a deliberate attack, but stopped short of calling it a terrorist incident.
Witnesses reported that the truck had ploughed into the crowd with no lights on.
“It can only have been deliberate,” one witness told the Berliner Morgenpost.
However, the federal authority tasked with the investigation invoked a „TeAf“ categorisation for the incident, standing for “Terroristischer Anschlagsfall”, or terrorist attack, meaning simply that terror was one avenue being explored.
Berlin police confirmed around 7.45am (AEDT) that a man — suspected as the driver but yet to be confirmed — had been arrested near the Tiergarten (Berlin Zoo) area.
The driver had reportedly fled the scene and headed for the Tiergarten when the truck came to a stop.
A second man in the truck was overpowered by police who since reported that the man, a Polish national, was dead at the scene as a result of “injuries”.
Footage from the scene taken by the Berliner Morgenpost
Lkw rast auf Weihnachtsmarkt am Breitscheidplatz
Posted by Berliner Morgenpost on 2016年12月19日
Germany’s Tagesschau news bulletin reported that a Polish radio station had interviewed Ariel Zurawski, the owner of the company in Gdansk to which the truck is registered.
Mr Zurawski reportedly said the company had lost contact around 4pm (German time) with the driver who was the man’s cousin and had 15 years experience.
He vouched for the man and said he “could not imagine” that he was involved in any way in the incident.
— Emma Rushton (@ERushton) December 19, 2016
Witnesses describe ‘carnage’
A worker at the Christmas market described the scene to the Berliner Zeitung newspaper.
“The truck drove through at very high speed,” the woman said.
“People were running out of the way and many were falling to the ground.
“I pulled one of the injured out from under the truck and then I looked up and saw the carnage: all the dead and seriously injured, lying in their own blood.”
The market was taking place in Breitscheidplatz in central Berlin near the famous Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church when the truck slammed into it, at a time early enough for families to have been out and about.
Witnesses described how the truck mounted the footpath and slammed into the market before being halted by large Christmas tree.
A Morgenpost reporter on the spot reported a “ghostly silence” at the scene after the smash.
“People sat in front of the stalls, held each others, others had their hands to their faces in shock, while others wept and embraced,” the reporter posted.
“‘There are dead and injured here’, cried one policeman warning the crowds approaching the market.”
Reactions and condolences flow, Merkel condemned
German President Joachim Gauck said he was deeply affected by the attack, describing it as a “terrible event” and a “dark evening for Berlin and the nation”.
“Even though we know little of the background to this incident … the victims and their families are in my thoughts.”
The National Security Council in the US expressed solidarity, while the Mayor of Nice, Christian Estrosi, whose town suffered a similar attack on Bastille Day that claimed 86 lives, also tweeted his support for Berlin.
But critics of the open-border policies of Chancellor Angela Merkel were quick to accuse the leader of having blood on her hands, despite no confirmation of the incident being terror-related.
Monikers such as “Mad Merkel”, “Misguided Merkel” and “Muslim Merkel” lit up social media, as political opponents and the anti-immigration lobby weighed in.
— Heart of Revenge (@TheTruthOffends) December 19, 2016
I remember being at the Berlin Christmas markets a few years back. Very nice. That was BEFORE #Merkel opened up Germany to Islamic invasion
— David Vance (@DVATW) December 19, 2016