There’s nothing that exemplifies the bliss and warmth of the holiday season quite like the famous Christmas markets that take place throughout Germany. Family and friends gather to drink mulled wine, eat delicious foods, buy gifts, and sing joyous songs. But last night in the city of Berlin, one of these peaceful and jovial markets was transformed into a scene of horror after a deadly terror attack left 12 dead and 48 injured.
At around 8PM, a black truck drove onto the crowded sidewalk, destroying the festive market and causing hundreds to flee in panic as the driver attempted to mow down as many market-goers as possible. Police soon discovered that the truck originated from Poland and that the perpetrator was still on the loose. About an hour after the attack transpired, German police apprehended a suspect about a mile and a half from the crash site.
The owner of the Polish haulage company that the truck was registered under claimed that his cousin had been driving the truck from Poland and was likely ambushed while making his route to Berlin. This statement seems to be supported by the dead passenger of Polish nationality found in the truck shortly after the attack transpired. According to the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Force, the terrorist group ISIS has taken credit for the incident.
According to German Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière, the suspect is said to be a Pakistani asylum-seeker whose application had yet to be accepted. Though he was “known to authorities,” the suspect was not flagged as having any ties to terrorist organizations. The arrested suspect has since denied his involvement in the attack, and police have hinted that he may not actually be the person responsible.
The attack is eerily similar to the one that took place in Nice, France back in July, which left 86 dead and increased ethnic tensions all across Europe. This most recent terrorist attack will likely put German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has been an outspoken supporter of allowing refugees into Germany, on the hot seat.
Earlier on Tuesday, Merkel emphasized that the motives of the attack were still under investigation, but also made a heavy-hearted statement to her fellow Germans.
“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. This would be particularly sickening for the many, many Germans who work to help refugees every day and for the many people who really need our help and are making an effort to integrate in our country."
Meanwhile, US President-Elect Donald Trump has already come out to blame the horrific event on ISIS, stating that “these terrorists and their regional and worldwide networks must be eradicated from the face of the earth, a mission we will carry out with all freedom-loving partners.”
The horrific and senseless attack is sure to dampen the holiday spirit in Germany and throughout the world. As someone who was in attendance at this Berlin market last weekend, it’s nearly unfathomable to imagine such a terrible thing happening in such a jovial and loving place. As Germany mourns and tries to make sense of this awful attack, it’s important to heed the recent words of Interior Minister de Maizière, who stated that we “must not compromise our lifestyle, if we do that the enemies of freedom have already won.”