Angela Merkel: ‘Especially hard to bear’ if Berlin attacker an asylum seeker

A man places a condolence sign among floral wreaths at a Christmas market at Breitscheidplatz in Berlin, Germany on Tuesday. At least 12 people were killed and at least 48 injured after a truck ploughed into the busy Christmas market on Monday. Authorities are investigating the incident as a possible terrorist attack. Photo by Rainer Jensen/European Pressphoto agency

BERLIN, Dec. 20 (UPI) — German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday said a truck crash in Berlin that killed 12 people is being treated by police as a terrorist attack.

“Our investigators are working on the assumption that the truck was steered deliberately into the crowd,” German police said.

A stolen tractor trailer loaded with steel beams drove through a festive Christmas market on Monday. At least 48 people were injured, 18 of them seriously.

A person familiar with the investigation said police apprehended the alleged driver, who is from Pakistan. It is not known if the man entered Germany as a refugee, The Wall Street Journal reported.

“I know it would be especially hard to bear for all of us if it should be confirmed that the person who committed this act sought protection and asylum in Germany. This would be especially despicable toward the many, many Germans who are daily engaged in helping refugees, and toward the many, many people who truly need this protection and strive to integrate themselves into our country,” Merkel said in a press conference.

Merkel gives a statement at the federal chancellery in Berlin, Germany on 20 December 2016. Photo by Michael Kappler/ European Pressphoto Agency

While the number of refugees entering Germany dropped in 2016, Merkel’s open-door policy has polarized voters. The Berlin incident threatens to undermine her domestic policy as Germany heads to an election year, and could lead to more support for the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany Party, known as AfD.

“Germany is no longer safe,” AfD co-chairwoman Frauke Petry said. “We must be under no illusions. The breeding ground in which such acts can flourish has been negligently and systematically imported over the past year and a half.”

Monday’s crash has similarities to a July attack in Nice, France, in which a truck plowed through a crowd, killing 80. It also came on a day on which a Russian ambassador was assassinated in Ankara, Turkey, and a shooting occurred in a Zurich mosque.


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