BERLIN, Dec. 19 (UPI) — At least nine people were killed and dozens were hurt Monday when a truck driver, apparently intentionally, plowed through a group of people gathered at a holiday market in the German capital, authorities said.
The commercial truck ran into revelers at the holiday market in Breitscheidplatz, on the west flank of Berlin near a major rail station.
“We are in mourning for the dead and hope that the many injured can get help,” Steffen Seibert, a spokesman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel, said.
“My thoughts are with the relatives of the victims and those injured in this terrible incident,” German Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière said. “I am in constant contact with the security forces in Berlin and have offered them every possible assistance from the federal police.”
“What we are witnessing here is dramatic. My thoughts are with the families, who are grieving over someone dead or injured,” Berlin Mayor Michael Müller said.
Authorities weren’t initially sure why the driver, if it was a deliberate act, targeted the holiday market. A similar incident in France in July killed more than 80 people at a Bastille Day celebration.
Facebook set up a safety check page after the incident for potential victims to communicate with loved ones.
“Although there is a host of unanswered questions, indications are it was a deliberate attack, carried out not just with the greatest brutality and disastrous consequences but also with a deliberate symbolism,” German Parliament member Wolfgang Bosbach said. “Just a few days before Christmas, in the middle of the German capital and amidst happy, peaceful people.The message is clear: no matter where, no matter how, we can pounce at any time.”
Reports said a person of interest has been arrested, although it wasn’t clear if he was inside the truck at the time of the incident.
The truck belonged to a Polish freight company, officials said, and the vehicle may have been hijacked for the purpose of an attack. The Polish company told police it lost contact with its driver sometime prior to the incident, The Guardian reported.