Pakistani asylum seeker believed to have used a hijacked 25-tonne lorry to murder 12 people and injure 48 more at a Berlin Christmas market had only been in Germany for months and was already known to police because of petty crime, it was revealed today.
The masked 23-year-old named as Naved B, who entered the country under a false name on New Year’s Eve 2015, turned off the truck’s lights before mounting the pavement at 40mph and ploughing through crowds of people enjoying mulled wine after work.
The vehicle laden with steel cargo ripped through stalls and shoppers at 7pm on Breitscheidplatz Square, outside the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church in the German capital’s main shopping area.
Witnesses said victims were sent flying like bowling pins as the killer driver steered at them before jumping out of the cab and racing from the scene.
Police managed to take the masked terror suspect alive at a nearby zoo after a ‘hero’ witness in the Christmas market gave chase on foot while giving officers second-by-second updates on his phone. Naved B is in a Berlin police station today.
Police confirmed the lorry’s original Polish driver, who was transporting steel beams into Germany, was last heard from at around 4pm yesterday and was found shot dead in the cab in an apparent murder hijacking.
German officials have said that the driver is a Pakistani national who entered Germany via the Balkans on December 31 and February as an asylum seeker. He was believed to be living in a refugee camp at Berlin’s Tempelhof airport, which was raided by an elite group of armed anti-terror police at 4am this morning.
The terror attack could be a political disaster for Angela Merkel, who will seek a historic fourth term as German Chancellor next year. The German leader has staked much of her political capital in opening up Germany’s doors to refugees and in doing so divided a reunited land.
In a further hammer blow, security sources have suggested that police in Berlin were warned that an attack on a Christmas market could be imminent.
Naved B is believed to have entered the country on New Year’s Eve last year. He is understood to have been arrested several times since them fro petty crime.
Security sources say he came from Pakistan and crossed over into the German southern border town of Passau from Austria, having travelled through the Balkans with thousands of other refugees.
He then made his way to the German capital and stayed in emergency accommodation in at the former Tempelhof Airport before ploughing the juggernaut into the crowded market killing 12 and 48 injured.
Formal identification of the suspect remains difficult as he used several different IDs.
As German police, the White House and Germany’s top security official indicated the incident was likely terror related, there was a chilling echo of the deadly terror attack in the French city of Nice in July. It also came just one hour after the Russian ambassador was shot dead in Ankara.
The harrowing incident also comes amid repeated warnings from various security agencies that ISIS planned to wreak havoc on European countries during the festive season, specifically threatening Christmas markets.