Manhunt intensifies for Berlin Christmas market attacker

Berlin — A massive manhunt was underway for the driver of a truck that was intentionally crashed into a Berlin Christmas market, leaving 12 people dead and 48 injured.

Investigators don’t know if there is more than one perpetrator at large. A new suspect emerged Wednesday (Dec. 21) after police found documents in the truck belonging to a 24-year-old Tunisian national identified only as Anis A, German magazine Spiegel reported on its website.

The previous sole suspect, a 23-year-old Pakistani asylum seeker, was released Tuesday evening because prosecutors did not find enough evidence linking him to the incident. He denied any involvement in the assault.

Germany is treating the attack as terrorism and it has been claimed by the Islamic State, but no evidence has emerged establishing a connection to the militant group that has staged and inspired assaults across Europe and the United States.

Berlin police urged people to be especially alert Wednesday and warned that the person or persons responsible were likely armed and dangerous. As of Tuesday night, police had received more than 500 tips about the attack. Security has been tightened in Berlin and across other European capital cities.

“I am relatively confident that we will perhaps tomorrow or in the near future be able to present a new suspect,” Andre Schulz, the chairman of the Federation of German Detectives, told state broadcaster ZDF on Tuesday evening.

One report, by Berlin’s RBB news, said the truck’s driver may be injured and that police were using DNA recovered from the vehicle to see if the attacker was hiding among the injured in the hospital. One theory circulating in German media is that the truck’s original Polish driver, who was found dead at the scene, may have tried to fight the perpetrator and wrestle him for the steering wheel as the truck was being driven into the market. Police have not commented on that idea.

Six of the dead have been identified as German nationals, according to German news agency DPA, citing police. Another five have not yet been identified. The Polish original driver was found dead in the truck’s passenger seat. A woman from Italy and another from Israel were missing after the attack.

“We will not let cosmopolitan Berlin be taken by such a cowardly attack, by fear and terror,” Berlin Mayor Michael Müller said at a memorial service at the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, close to the site of the attack, on Tuesday evening.