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Suspect arrested, 9 dead in Berlin crash

dpa logodpa 19/12/2016

A suspected attacker is dead and another in police custody after a truck ploughed into a crowded Christmas market in Berlin, killing at least nine people.

At least nine people have been killed and some 50 others injured when a large truck ploughed into a crowded Christmas market in Berlin in what police suspect was a terrorist attack.

The driver of the truck fled the scene, and a suspect, possibly the driver, was taken into custody a few kilometres from the market shortly afterwards. Another passenger in the truck died at the scene.

A Berlin police spokesman told German broadcaster N-TV that officials were attempting to establish the identity and nationality of the alleged attackers.

The truck belongs to a Polish trucking company, its owner Ariel Zurawski told Poland's TVN 24 broadcaster, adding that its driver had been transporting steel to Berlin and had not been reachable since 4pm local time.

Police said on Twitter that they were examining a "suspicious object" in a street near the scene of the incident.

Amateur videos allegedly taken directly after the attack and aired on several German broadcasters showed injured people lying on the ground against the backdrop of police sirens.

The truck drove between 50 and 80 metres through the market at the historic Kaiser-Wilhelm Memorial Church, which is adjacent to one of Berlin's most popular shopping streets.

"I heard a big noise and then I moved on the Christmas market and saw much chaos...many injured people," Jan Hollitzer, deputy editor in chief of Berliner Morgenpost, told CNN. "It was really traumatic."

A government spokesman said Chancellor Angela Merkel was being briefed by her interior minister and the Berlin mayor on the situation. Police said there were no indications of further dangerous situations in the area and urged people to stay away from scene.

Merkel said through her spokesman that she was mourning those killed. "We are mourning the dead and hope the many people injured can get help," Steffen Seibert said on Twitter.

A large number of streets were cordoned off around the church as police patrolled the area with machine guns.

Berlin's mayor Michael Mueller said the situation in the capital was under control.

"What we are seeing here, is dramatic," said Mueller at the scene of the attack at Breitscheidplatz. His thoughts were with the families of the dead and injured, he said.

Berlin police warned residents to remain indoors and to avoid spreading rumours.

If established as a terrorist attack, the incident will come less than six months after two attacks in Germany in July inspired by the Islamic State extremist group.

A 12-year-old boy with dual German-Iraqi citizenship allegedly attempted to explode a nail bomb at a Christmas market in the western German city of Ludwighafen a few weeks ago.

The Berlin attack also followed a truck attack by a terrorist on a crowd of people celebrating Bastille Day in Nice. The July attack, which was claimed by Islamic State, left 86 people dead.

German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said the circumstances of the deadly truck crash were still unclear, but a lot pointed to an attack.

"We don't yet have anything conclusive regarding the circumstances and the course of events," de Maiziere told ARD public television, adding that investigators were working hard to put together all the pieces of evidence.

"I don't want to use the word 'attack' yet although a lot points to that," the minister said.

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