Berlin truck attack: the investigation so far

By AFP/Antoine Lambroschini   December 21, 2016 | 06:22 pm PT
Berlin truck attack: the investigation so far
A general view shows the the Christmas market of main shopping street Kurfuerstendamm in Berlin, Germany, November 25, 2015. Photo by Reuters/Fabrizio Bensch/File Photo
The manhunt for a Tunisian suspect is on.

A kidnapped driver, a Pakistani man held then freed and a manhunt for a Tunisian suspect: here is what we know about the probe into the truck attack on a Berlin Christmas market that left 12 people dead.

The Polish driver

On Monday the truck's driver, a 37-year-old Pole named Lukasz, headed to Berlin to deliver a load of 24 tons of steel beams from Italy. But the delivery was put off until the following day, so he went to park his Polish-registered lorry in an industrial zone in the northwest of the city, the Bild daily reported.

In the afternoon he spoke briefly to his wife and the couple agreed to talk again an hour later. But they never did. According to his employer Ariel Zurawski, GPS data from the vehicle showed it had been driven, but only making small movements "as if someone was learning how to drive it".

The lorry left its parking space around 7:40 p.m., driving the 10 kilometers (six miles) or so to a busy area of west Berlin where the Christmas market was being held, and ploughing into the throng of revelers.

After 60-80 meters (200-260 feet) through the market the lorry swerved to the left, crashing through a stall before coming to a halt on the avenue running along the side of the square. The change of course brings the carnage to an end.

Police found the Polish driver, shot dead, in the passenger seat of the truck's cab. According to Zurawski, his cousin, who was shown photos of the body, "his face was bloodied and swollen" and had a stab wound.

According to German media, the Polish truck driver could have been kidnapped and told to drive the vehicle into the crowd before resisting and being killed. Or, sitting in the passenger seat at gunpoint, he may have tried to seize control of the vehicle and forced it off its deadly trajectory.

The false lead

At first police believed they had got their man: a Pakistani asylum seeker arrested an hour after the carnage two kilometers away. But he was released 24 hours later, Tuesday evening, after investigators failed to find any trace of his DNA in the lorry's cab.

He had been detained after an eyewitness called police to say he had seen the perpetrator jump out the truck's cab and was trailing him, while staying in contact with officers to lead them to where they could make an arrest.

In the end, according to Bild, the witness may have lost the trail of the suspect while following him. And police, relying on a description which was too vague, arrested the wrong man. "We declared victory too soon," said one investigator.

Manhunt for Tunisian

Police launched a manhunt Wednesday for 24-year-old Tunisian national Anis Amri, who had already been under investigation for planning an attack.

Suspect Anis Amri

Suspect Anis Amri

Asylum office papers believed to belong to a Tunisian were found in the cab of the truck.

Amri arrived in Germany in July 2015 but his application for asylum had been rejected.

German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere confirmed authorities were searching for "a new suspect", but did not say whether this person was the Tunisian asylum seeker identified by the media.

The attack has been claimed by the Islamic State group, with the IS-linked Amaq news agency saying an IS "soldier" had carried out the truck assault "in response to appeals to target citizens of coalition countries".

Germany is part of a U.S.-led coalition fighting IS in Iraq and Syria.

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