Berlin market attack: Signs point to the main suspect still being on the run

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CBS News

BERLIN – The day after a truck plowed into a bustling Christmas market in Berlin, killing 12 people, authorities are still scrambling for a motive, and doubt has been cast on the guilt of the only arrested suspect.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel described herself as “shocked, shaken and deeply saddened” after what she said the government must assume was a “terrorist attack.”

However, no group took responsibility in the immediate aftermath.

Merkel, who has been criticized for allowing in large numbers of migrants, addressed head-on the possibility that an asylum-seeker was responsible.

“I know that it would be particularly hard for us all to bear if it were confirmed that a person committed this act who asked for protection and asylum in Germany,” Merkel said.

Authorities arrested a man about 1.5 miles from the crash site on suspicion of having been at the wheel of the truck. Footage showed the suspect, his head covered in a white sheet, being pushed into a police car shortly after the attack. Berlin’s Tagesspiegel newspaper reported that the man was known to police for minor crimes.

However, the suspect denies involvement in the attack, Berlin police said.

Below is the latest information on the attack, the investigation, and the world reaction to the worst terrorist attack in Germany since they began taking in migrants by the hundreds of thousands last year.

0:05 a.m. ET

Chancellor Angela Merkel and other senior German officials have laid white roses at the site of Monday’s attack on a Christmas market in Berlin.

Merkel was joined by Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere, Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Berlin Mayor Michael Mueller at the site near the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church in central Berlin on Tuesday.

They spoke with police officers at the market then signed a book of condolences at the church.


9:46 a.m. ET

Italy is strengthening security measures for areas where crowds are expected for Christmas ceremonies, such as Pope Francis’ appearance in St. Peter’s Square.

Interior Minister Marco Minniti led a meeting Tuesday of the heads of Italy’s police and intelligence forces to review security after the truck attack on a Christmas market in Berlin.

An interior ministry statement does not specify the places where security will be tightened. But security officials in the past have said that extremists have noted the Vatican, as a symbol of Christianity, is a logical target.


9:30 a.m. ET

The head of Germany’s Federal Criminal Police Office said he cannot rule out that suspects involved in the truck attack on a Berlin Christmas market could still be at large.

Holger Muench told reporters Tuesday that authorities are still not positive the suspect they have in custody was the driver of the truck, that they have not yet found a pistol believed used to kill the truck’s passenger, and that it is not known overall how people were involved.

For those reasons, he said, we are “naturally on high alert and are investigating in all directions.”

He said six of the 12 people killed have been identified and are all Germans, but he does not yet know whether the other six are as well.


9:10 a.m. ET

The Berliner-Zeitung newspaper is reporting that no DNA nor blood traces from the arrested suspect were found inside the truck that crashed into the market. Additionally, the newspaper reports there were no gunpowder traces found on the suspect, and police believe the truck driver shot the passenger in the truck, who later died. The information continues to point to the main attack suspect still likely being at large.


8:45 a.m. ET

The owner of a Polish trucking company said the driver who was the first victim of the attack on a Christmas market in Berlin was stabbed and shot to death in the cabin of his truck.

Ariel Zurawski said German authorities asked him to identify the victim, Lukasz Urban, 37, from photos.

“His face was swollen and bloodied. It was really clear that he was fighting for his life,” Zurawski said, speaking to broadcaster TVN.

Lukasz Wasik, the manager of the trucking company, described Urban as a “good, quiet and honest person” devoted to his work.

“I believe he would not give up the vehicle and would defend it to the end if were attacked,” Wasik said in comments carried by TVP, Poland’s state broadcaster.


8:00 a.m. ET

German newspaper Die Welt reports a top police official as saying “We have the wrong man.”

Law enforcement in Berlin have also publicly left open the door to the possibility that the truck driver may still be at large.

German officials have not said as much directly, but Berlin police continue to urge the public to be cautious and report tips. In a series of tweets they warn members of the public to continue to be vigilant as the investigation continues.

The BBC reports the head of Berlin police as saying they were “unable to confirm” whether the arrested suspect is the truck driver.