authorities on Tuesday released a Pakistani asylum-seeker suspected of
driving a truck into a Berlin Christmas market and killing 12 people due
to a lack of evidence and the interior minister said the real
perpetrator may still be on the run.
truck smashed into wooden huts serving mulled wine and sausages on
Monday evening at the foot of the Kaiser Wilhelm memorial church, one of
west Berlin’s most famous landmarks. Forty-five people were injured, 30
Islamic State claimed responsibility the attack, saying the perpetrator was a “soldier” of the militant group.
“He executed the operation in response to calls to target nationals of the coalition countries,” its AMAQ news agency said.
But Germany’s interior minister said that despite the claim, investigators were following various leads.
just heard about the supposed claim of responsibility by this so-called
Islamic State that is in fact a gang of terrorists,” Minister Thomas de
Maiziere told ARD broadcaster. “There are several leads that
investigators are following now.”
The Chief Federal Prosecutor’s Office said in a statement it had been
unable to prove that the suspect had been in the cabin of the truck at
the time of the attack and said he had denied any involvement.
Die Welt newspaper quoted an unnamed police chief as saying: “We have
the wrong man. And therefore a new situation. The true perpetrator is
still armed, at large and can cause fresh damage.”
on the suspect’s release, de Maiziere told ZDF television: “That’s why
it is true that one cannot rule out that the perpetrator is still at
He said there was
no doubt the Berlin incident had been an attack but the motive remained
unclear. He also said it was not yet known how many foreigners were
among the victims of the attack but no children had been among the dead.
of the arrest of the 23-year-old Pakistani had led politicians in
Germany and beyond to demand a crackdown on immigration, but Chancellor
Angela Merkel urged caution.
is much we still do not know with sufficient certainty but we must, as
things stand now, assume it was a terrorist attack,” she told reporters
earlier on Tuesday.
know it would be especially hard for us all to bear if it were confirmed
that the person who committed this act was someone who sought
protection and asylum,” she said.