German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that the attack in Berlin on Monday night that left 12 dead was an act of terrorism. A tractor-trailer crashed into a crowd of people shopping in the Breitscheidplatz portion of the city, in an act that investigators quickly determined was intentional. This map of Berlin shows where the holiday market attack took place.
Breitscheidplatz, a square in the western part of Berlin, is a beloved and familiar part of the city for natives and tourists alike. Particularly this time of year, the area is busy, as its filled with shopping centers, movie theaters, restaurants and is very close to the well-known Berlin mall, KaDeWe. Given that it's so close to the holidays, Breitscheidplatz was at its busiest when a truck jumped the curb and crashed into a crowd of people Monday night, killing 12 and injuring nearly 50.
The attack occurred very near to one of the most well recognized landmarks in Berlin, the Kaiser-Wilhelm Memorial Church. The church managed to stay standing during attacks in WWII, and while the interior was repaired after the war, the exterior remained in ruins to serve as a symbol of the war's destruction not just for Germany, but for the rest of Europe and the world. The fact that a violent act of terrorism occurred before this landmark might seem ironic, but it could also have been intentional.
Berlin is the capitol of Germany, and has a population of around 3.5 million, according to Germany's Business Location Center's demographic data. Last year, the city's population increased by about 50,000 — and many people relocated to Berlin from elsewhere in Europe, as well as from other places in the world: last year, a quarter of Berlin's new residents had immigrated from Syria.
With a growing population of Syrian refugees, the city has found innovative ways to help those who have immigrated: a group that works with the homeless to give them work giving guided tours of the city has extended its assistance to refugees, who give a fascinating and personal tour of the city from the unique perspective of asylum seekers, according to CBS News.
While investigators are still trying to find out the specific motive for the attack, preliminary reports linked a Polish man to the ownership of the truck. The man, Ariel Zurawski, said that his cousin had been driving it at the time of the attack, but that he believed the lorry had been hijacked, according to The Telegraph.
The Telegraph and other European news outlets have also reported that it's believed the man found dead inside the truck after the attack was Zurawski's cousin. Investigators say that it appears the man — who was found in the passenger seat — was likely murdered by the perpetrator of the attack, according to The Sun. The truck has been removed from the scene and is being forensically examined by German authorities.
As of Tuesday morning, German authorities have taken a suspect into custody who has denied any involvement in the crime, according to the Associated Press. The suspect is believed to be a Pakastani asylum-seeker, and many have commented that the leap to apprehend him may be at least in part due to growing tensions between Europe, the Muslim community, and those seeking immigration after the Brexit vote earlier this year.
Police President Klaus Kandt told reporters of the 23-year-old suspect, "it's uncertain whether he was really the driver," according to Reuters, but it's unclear whether the suspect has been released, and the German police have not indicated any other leads. The police have been using social media to urge Berlin residents to remain alert, as there are fears that more attacks could crop up, and as of Tuesday morning, the person responsible for the Breitscheidplatz attack may still be at-large.