At least nine people were killed and some 50 others injured when a large truck ploughed at high-speed into a crowded Christmas market in a popular shopping area in Berlin late Monday in what police suspect was a terrorist attack.
The driver of the truck fled the scene, and a suspect, possibly the driver, was taken into custody a few miles from the Christmas market shortly afterward. Another passenger in the truck died at the scene.
A Berlin police spokesman told German broadcaster N-TV that officials were attempting to establish the identity and nationality of the alleged attackers.
The truck belongs to a Polish trucking company, its owner Ariel Zurawski told Poland’s TVN 24 broadcaster, adding that its driver had been transporting steel to Berlin and had not been reachable since 4 p.m. local time.
Police said on Twitter that they were examining a “suspicious object” in a street near the scene of the incident.
Amateur videos allegedly taken directly after the attack and aired on several German broadcasters showed injured people lying on the ground against the backdrop of police sirens.
The truck drove between 164 and 262 feet through the Christmas market at the historic Kaiser-Wilhelm Memorial Church, which is adjacent to one of the city’s most popular shopping streets.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said through her spokesman that she was mourning those killed. “We are mourning the dead and hope the many people injured can get help,” Steffen Seibert said on Twitter.
Christmas markets have a long history in Germany stretching back to the Middle Ages. However, more recently they have grown dramatically to become popular places to socialize, to drink mulled wine and to eat snacks in the weeks running up to Christmas.
Security has also been increased at many of the nation’s Christmas markets this year, according to a recent dpa survey of the markets.
A large number of streets were cordoned off around the church as police patrolled the area with machine guns.
Berlin Mayor Michael Mueller said the situation in the capital was under control after the deadly attack.
“What we are seeing here, is dramatic,” said Mueller at the scene of the attack at Breitscheidplatz. His thoughts were with the families of the dead and injured, he said.
Berlin police warned residents to remain indoors and to avoid spreading rumors about the attack.
If established as a terrorist attack, the incident would come less than six months after two attacks in Germany in July inspired by the Islamic State extremist group.
A 12-year-old boy with dual German-Iraqi citizenship allegedly attempted to explode a nail bomb at a Christmas market in the western German city of Ludwigshafen a few weeks ago.
The Berlin attack also followed a truck attack by a terrorist on a crowd of people celebrating Bastille Day in the southern French city Nice. The attack, which was claimed by the Islamic State, left 86 people dead.