December 19, 2016

In Berlin Trucker Plows thru Xmas Market Killing Around 45 People

A truck plowed through a Christmas market in Germany's capital on Monday evening, killing at least nine people and injuring about 45 others, authorities said. 
The incident happened at Breitscheidplatz, a public square in the center of Berlin. The driver's nationality wasn't known, but Berlin police said they suspected his truck, which bore Polish license plates, was stolen. 
Police initially said on German TV that the driver was apprehended after having tried to flee. They later said on Twitter only that a suspect was arrested in the vicinity of the public square and that it remained under investigation whether that person was the driver. 
 A passenger in the truck was among those killed, police spokesman Thomas Neuendorf said on German TV. It wasn't immediately clear how the passenger died or what his or her relationship was to the driver. 

Image: Truck in Berlin

A truck near the Christmas market in Berlin on Monday. Fabrizio Bensch / Reuters

It also wasn't clear whether the truck veered into the holiday crowds on purpose or by accident, but in a security message to U.S. citizens in Germany, the U.S. Embassy said, "Police are reporting this as a suspected terrorist incident." 
Emma Rushton, a witness, told NBC News that she heard the "terrifying" crash while she was with a friend at the Christmas market while on vacation in Berlin from Rugby, England. 
"People were bleeding. There was lots of blood and lots of crying," she said. 
Rushton said she that thought the truck was going about 40 mph and that "there was no way it was just a veer-off-the-road accident." 
Other witnesses said victims were crushed.  The U.S. ambassador to Germany, John B. Emerson, called reports of the incident "devastating." Emerson said the embassy in Berlin was closely monitoring updates from German authorities and was ready to assist any U.S. citizens searching for news of their loved ones.  In July, a truck driver killed 84 Bastille Day revelers in Nice, France, and injured more than 200 others before he was shot dead by police. Officials said he had been planning the attack for months. 
U.S. intelligence officials told NBC News that Monday's incident was somewhat consistent but that they are aware of no claims of responsibility and aren't ready to call it a terrorist attack. They pointed out that German authorities have conducted a series of raids in recent weeks, rolling up numerous ISIS operatives. 
 July: Risk of Truck Attack Has Long Been U.S. Security Concern

 U.S. officials have long feared truck attacks on U.S. soil. Permanent truck barriers were installed around government buildings nationwide after the 1995 truck bomb attack in Oklahoma City. Police in New York and Chicago said Monday that they had beefed up their presences at high-profile locations as a precaution. 
In November, the State Department warned U.S> citizens to exercise caution at overseas holiday festivals and outdoor markets in light of the heightened risk of terrorist attacks throughout Europe. 
The Weihnachtsmarkt, or Christmas market, at Breitscheidplatz — just off the main shopping district of West Berlin close to the historic Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church — is one of dozens of Christmas markets in the city.

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