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Berlin police raise crash death toll to 12

AAP logoAAP 19/12/2016

Berlin police have raise death toll to 12 after truck rammed into a Christmas market.

The police statement on Twitter also says 48 people were injured, some of them seriously, and taken to hospitals.

German daily Die Welt and news agency DPA also reported that the driver came to Germany as a refugee in February and was either from Afghanistan or Pakistan.

The man had used different names, which was making his identification more difficult, a security source added.

The paper and DPA relied on sources close to the investigation.

A suspicious person was arrested, police say, while a Polish citizen, described as a passenger, was found dead.

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.

He said earlier that he feared the truck may have been hijacked.

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, the Kurfuerstendamm.

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.

Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said the circumstances of the crash were still unclear, adding: "I don't want to use the word 'attack' yet although a lot points to that."

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.

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