German police said Tuesday they were treating as “a probable terrorist attack” the killing of 12 people when a speeding lorry cut a bloody swathe through a Berlin Christmas market.
At least 48 more were wounded when the truck tore through the crowd Monday, smashing wooden stalls and crushing victims, in scenes reminiscent of July’s deadly attack in the French Riviera city of Nice.
Images showed the mangled truck with its windscreen smashed and a trail of destruction in its wake, with Christmas trees toppled on their side and festive stalls obliterated into splinters.
One of the survivors, Australian Trisha O’Neill, recalled the horror of “this huge black truck speeding through the markets crushing so many people”, with “blood and bodies everywhere”.
“It wasn’t an accident,” said another visitor, Briton Emma Rushton, who was enjoying a glass of mulled wine when the festive scene was shattered by a loud crash and screams.
“We heard a really loud bang and saw some of the Christmas lights to our left starting to be pulled down,” she told Sky news.
“Then we saw the articulated vehicle going through people and through the stalls and just pulling everything down and then everything went dark.”
Police detained the man believed to have deliberately mowed the Scania truck loaded with steel beams for 80 metres (yards) into the popular tourist spot near the capital’s iconic Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church.
The suspect was an asylum seeker believed to be from Pakistan or Afghanistan who arrived in Germany via the so-called Balkans route in February, according to unnamed security sources cited by DPA news agency.
Local newspapers said that, after the truck driver left the cabin, a man followed him on foot and used his mobile phone to stay in touch with police, who arrested him about two kilometres away near Berlin’s Victory Column