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Nine killed as truck ploughs into Berlin Christmas crowd

December 19, 2016

A truck ploughed into a crowded Christmas market in the German capital Berlin on Monday evening, killing nine people and injuring up to 50 others, in what police described as a deliberate attack.

The incident occurred near the fashionable Kurfürstendamm, close to the Kaiser Wilhelm memorial church, one of Berlin’s most iconic landmarks.

German media said a manhunt had begun for the driver of the vehicle, who had fled the scene. 

It evoked memories of an attack in France in July when Tunisian-born Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel drove a 19-tonne truck along the beach front in Nice, killing 86 people.

Police shot the driver dead in the Nice attack, which was claimed by so-called Islamic State.

Television pictures showed the truck standing amid the debris of the small wooden stalls that are a feature of Berlin’s many Christmas markets. Police cars and ambulances converged on the scene.

Germany has been in a state of high alert after two terror attacks in Bavaria carried out by refugees who had pledged allegiance to the militant group Islamic State.

Security officials have long warned that IS could have smuggled operatives into Germany under cover of the 1m refugees who have poured into the country since the start of 2015. 

In Zürich, three men were seriously injured on Monday evening when shots were fired in the prayer room of an Islamic centre near the city’s main station. Swiss police later confirmed they had found a dead body a few hundred metres away but were unable to confirm a connection between the two incidents.

The latest events are likely to raise fears of xenophobic and religious violence spreading in Europe, affecting smaller countries such as Switzerland as well as Germany and France.

Armed police launched a large-scale manhunt for the Islamic centre attacker, who they said had fired “several shots” at worshippers at about 5.30pm local time. Large parts of Zürich were sealed off. Witnesses described the man as about 30 years old and wearing dark clothing and a wool hat.

Via FT