BERLIN: German police think that the man from Pakistan who was arrested as a suspect in the attack on a Berlin Christmas market was not the actual perpetrator, Die Welt newspaper reported on Tuesday (Dec 20), citing senior security sources.
"We have the wrong man," said a senior police chief. "And therefore a new situation. The true perpetrator is still armed, at large and can cause fresh damage," the paper quoted the source as saying.
Berlin's police chief said it was not clear if the arrested man was the driver. Police said on Twitter: "The temporarily arrested suspect denies the offence. Therefore we are particularly alert. Please be also alert."
Earlier on Tuesday Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere had told reporters that the suspect was Pakistani and had arrived in Germany on Dec 31, 2015, seeking asylum. His request was still pending, the minister said.
De Maiziere added that Monday's bloodshed had so far not been claimed by the Islamic State organisation or any other group. He said however: "We have no doubt that this terrible event was an attack."
Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday told reporters: "There is much we still do not know with sufficient certainty but we must, as things stand now, assume it was a terrorist attack."
She added: "I know it would be especially hard for us all to bear if it were confirmed that the person who committed this act was someone who sought protection and asylum."
Twelve people were killed in the assault at one of Berlin's most-visited attractions. 48 others were injured, including 18 who are severely wounded.
Twelve people were killed when a truck ploughed into the crowd at the Berlin Christmas market. (Photo: AFP)
Christmas markets in Berlin were shut for a day out of respect for victims and their relatives, but de Maiziere said the markets or major events elsewhere must continue.
"Cancelling them would be wrong," he said.
The EU and German flags fly at half mast in front of the German chancellory. (Photo: AFP)
Police in Berlin will significantly increase security measures in the coming days, with steps such as erecting barriers, after the attack on a Christmas market on Monday evening which killed 12 people, the president of the city's police said.
Berlin city's interior senator also said that plans for New Year's Eve will go ahead but security steps will be reviewed.