A “probable terrorist attack” is being investigated in Germany after a man ploughed a truck into a Christmas market in the heart of Berlin, killing 12 people and injuring 48.
German police have detained the driver, who security sources reportedly say is an Afghan or Pakistani asylum seeker.
The man arrived in Germany in February as a refugee, the DPA news agency said.
According to the Tagesspiegel, he was known to the police for minor crimes, but not terror links.
Berlin police tweeted: “All police measures related to the suspected terrorist attack at Breitscheidplatz are progressing at full steam and with the necessary diligence.”
German politicians had avoided branding the bloodshed a terror attack in the hours immediately following, but Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere told ARD television, “there are many things pointing to one”.
The Christmas market is at Breitscheidplatz, close to the Kurfuerstendamm, the main shopping street in Berlin’s west.
The crash happened in the shadow of the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, which was damaged in a World War Two bombing raid and preserved as a symbol of peace.
The truck, which was loaded with steel beams, veered into the market at 20:14 local time,one of its busiest times. It crashed through wooden huts and stands packed with tourists and locals.
The truck driver was reportedly seized after leaving his truck and fleeing on foot.
Image source Twitter
Berlin police spokesman Winfried Wenzel told die Welt that the man ran down the street towards the Tiergarten, a large public park.
A witness followed him at a distance for more than a mile, and called the police, who quickly detained him near the Victory Column monument.
The police spokesman speculated that the driver may have wanted to “find shelter in the darkness of the park”.
According to German media, the suspect was from Afghanistan or Pakistan and had entered the country as a refugee in the past year.
Police confirmed that a passenger was found dead in the truck, and said he was a Polish national. There are fears he may have been the original driver of the vehicle, and that he was subject to a hijacking.
Ariel Zurawski, the Polish owner of the truck, confirmed that his driver was missing and had been unreachable since 16:00 on December 19.
“We don’t know what happened to him,” he told the AFP.
“He’s my cousin, I’ve known him since I was a kid. I can vouch for him.”
The truck was registered in Poland and police said it was believed to have been stolen from a building site there, the AP reports.
Both ISIS and al-Qaeda have urged their followers to use trucks as a means to attack crowds.
The US labeled the tragedy an apparent “terrorist attack” and pledged its support.
President-elect Donald Trump blamed “Islamist terrorists” for a “slaughter” of Christians in Berlin.
Donald Trump tweeted: “Today there were terror attacks in Turkey, Switzerland and Germany – and it is only getting worse. The civilized world must change thinking!”
Eighteen of the 19 US diplomatic missions recently closed due to security threats will reopen on Sunday.
The state department says its embassy in the Yemeni capital Sanaa will stay closed “because of ongoing concerns”.
The US closed 19 diplomatic missions in the Middle East and Africa last Sunday in response to what it said was a threat of a terrorist attack.
The consulate in the Pakistani city of Lahore, which closed after a separate threat, will also not reopen yet.
“We will continue to evaluate the threats to Sanaa and Lahore and make subsequent decisions about the reopening of those facilities based on that information,” said spokeswoman Jen Psaki.
“We will also continue to evaluate information about these and all of our posts and to take appropriate steps to best protect the safety of our personnel, American citizens travelling overseas, and visitors to our facilities.”
On Thursday, at least 14 suspected al-Qaeda militants – reportedly including seven from Saudi Arabia – were killed in Yemen in three drone strikes, Yemeni officials said.
The number of US strikes in Yemen has been stepped up over the past month.
Eighteen of the 19 US diplomatic missions recently closed due to security threats will reopen on Sunday
Yemen is a stronghold of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) – an al-Qaeda offshoot considered by Washington to be the most dangerous to the West.
The US statement said the Sanaa embassy would stay closed because of concerns about a “threat stream” emanating from AQAP, without providing further details.
Most US employees at the Sanaa embassy were ordered to leave the country on Tuesday.
The embassy closures, along with a US global travel alert, came after the US reportedly intercepted al-Qaeda messages.
Reports said they were between senior figures talking about a plot against an embassy.
The US closed its consulate in Lahore on Thursday and evacuated all non-essential staff following what it described as “a credible threat”.
US officials said the evacuation was undertaken as a precaution and not related to the closure of the other diplomatic missions.
Thursday’s drone attacks in Yemen targeted a group of suspected militants, killing four of them in Wadi al-Jadd in the southern province of Hadramout, said Yemeni officials.
A day earlier, Yemen said it had foiled a major al-Qaeda plot against oil pipelines and ports.
Two strikes in Marib and Hadramout provinces killed 10 suspected militants, the security officials said, while another seven people died in a drone attack on Wednesday.
While the US has acknowledged targeting militants in Yemen with drones, it does not comment publicly on its policy or the raids.
About 30 suspected militants have been killed in a series of such raids in Yemen since 28 July, news agencies report.
The United States has ordered all non-essential government personnel to leave its consulate in the Pakistani city of Lahore.
A senior State Department official said the move was in response to a “credible threat” to the consulate.
US personnel remaining in Lahore should limit non-essential travel within the country, the official said.
On Thursday, the US reiterated a travel warning advising all US citizens to defer non-essential travel to Pakistan.
US withdraws all non-essential government personnel from Lahore consulate
“We are undertaking this drawdown due to concerns about credible threat information specific to the US Consulate in Lahore,” the official said.
“An updated travel warning has also been issued,” the official said, adding that “US citizens remaining in Lahore… should limit non-essential travel within the country, be aware of their surroundings whether in their residences or moving about, [and] make their own contingency emergency plans.”
The travel warning said: “The presence of several foreign and indigenous terrorist groups poses a potential danger to US citizens throughout Pakistan.”
US officials say it is not clear when the consulate will open again.
The US closed 19 diplomatic missions in the Middle East and Africa on Sunday in response to what it said was a threat of a terrorist attack.
The evacuation from Lahore was undertaken as a precaution and was not related to the closure of the other diplomatic missions, AP news agency reported, citing two unnamed US officials.
The Pakistani authorities have been holding the capital on a state of high alert, especially key Pakistan government installations.
Former US President George W. Bush was given a series of direct warnings throughout 2001 about the possibility of a terrorist attack by Al Qaeda – but failed to take them seriously, it was claimed today.
On the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, it has been reported that the White House received multiple briefs between May and August 2001 about an attack with explosives and numerous casualties.
But George W. Bush continually failed to take any significant action and questioned the thoroughness of the briefings – leading to huge frustrations within the CIA.
These repeated warnings came before the famous top secret briefing – which has previously been reported – given to George Bush on August 6 with the heading “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in the U.S.”.
Just a few weeks later on September 11, terrorists smashed planes into the World Trade Center in New York City – killing nearly 3,000 people and horrifying the world.
Details of the other briefings given to George W. Bush and his administration – which have never been made public – have now been revealed by The New York Times.
And they paint a startling picture of negligence at the heart of the U.S. government before 9/11.
The White House was made aware of potential attacks in the spring and, by May 1, was told by the CIA that “a group presently in the United States” was planning a terrorist attack, the Times reported.
In another daily brief on June 22, the administration was told that Al Qaeda strikes could be “imminent”.
President George W. Bush was given a series of direct warnings throughout 2001 about the possibility of a terrorist attack by Al Qaeda
However, the new neoconservative leaders at the Pentagon told the White House that the CIA had been fooled.
They believed that Osama Bin Laden was pretending to plan an attack to distract the U.S. from Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.
Following this, the CIA prepared another daily brief for June 29 in which they listed over a page the evidence which they had built up.
This included an interview with a journalist from the Middle East in which aides of Bin Laden warned of an upcoming attack.
The briefing also included: “The U.S. is not the target of a disinformation campaign by Usama Bin Laden.”
It also included details from people close to Osama Bin Laden which claimed the expected attacks would have dramatic consequences with many casualties.
Another warning on July 1 said despite the attack being delayed it would soon take place.
But despite these warnings the White House did not appear to take them as seriously as the CIA was demanding.
The Times reports that officials within the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center became increasingly angry and in one meeting an official suggested the staff request a transfer so they could not be blamed when the attack occurred.
The White House was also told that the extremist Ibn Al-Khattab – known for his links to Al Qaeda – told his followers in Chechnya that there would “be big news soon”, the Times reported.
George W. Bush was told on July 24 that the attack was still being prepared but added that it had been postponed by a few months. However, he did not think the briefings were adequate and requested a much more detailed analysis of Al Qaeda.
This was to be the famous briefing of August 6 which was eventually declassified by the White House in April 2004 and made public.
“The administration’s reaction to what Mr. Bush was told in the weeks before that infamous briefing reflected significantly more negligence than has been disclosed,” Kurt Eichenwald wrote in the piece for the New York Times.
“In other words, the August 6 document, for all of the controversy it provoked, is not nearly as shocking as the briefs that came before it.”
Following the devastating attacks on 9/11, the White House – which was receiving criticism it had ignored CIA warnings – said it had never been told when or where the attacks would take place.
Yet many have claimed that if the government had been on high security alert over that summer they may have found out about the planned attack – and saved the lives of thousands.
Yet George Pataki, New York state governor on 9/11, laid into Eichenwald during a joint appearance on MSNBC for writing the New York Times article about the briefings.
“I just think this is incredibly unfortunate, to be perfectly honest. Because first of all, having been there, on September 11th and for weeks, months thereafter President Bush provided inspired, effective leadership,” George Pataki, a Republican, said.
“On September 11th everything changed and to look 11 years later and say, <<Aha, this was happening before September 11th in the summer>> and go though and selectively say, <<You should’ve done that, you should’ve done that>> I think is incredibly unfair and a disservice to history.
“And by the way if you look back there are those who could have said that President Roosevelt was at fault for Pearl Harbor. But the government didn’t look back and say, <<let’s blame the President>>; we came together to fight an important war.”
IGNORED WARNINGS: THE CIA BRIEFS ABOUT AL QAEDA ATTACK
May 1, 2001 CIA told White House that “a group presently in the United States” was planning a terrorist operation “with explosives”
June 22, 2001 CIA brief reported that Al Qaeda attacks could be “imminent”
June 29, 2001 Warning that the government needed to take briefs seriously. Added evidence included Osama Bin Laden aides warning of an attack and operatives claiming it would have “dramatic consequences”
July 1, 2001 Brief said the operation had been delayed but “will occur soon”
July 9, 2001 Extremist in Chechnya linked to Al Qaeda told followers there would soon be big news – and within 48 hours the information was passed to the White House
July 24, 2001 George W. Bush told the attack was still under preparation but that it had been postponed
August 6, 2001 George W. Bush received review of threats posed by Al Qaeda with headline: “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.”
According to a new research, there’s a 50/50 chance of another catastrophic 9/11-style attack in the next ten years, and an even greater chance if the world become less stable.
The startling figure was floated by a pair of researchers who examined more than 13,000 lethal terrorist attacks between 1968 and 2007.
They calculated the likelihood based on the assumption that the frequency of major attacks, like earthquakes and other natural disasters, using mathematical power law.
Aaron Clauset at the Santa Fe Institute in New Mexico and Ryan Woodard at ETH, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, in Zurich assume the number of terrorist attacks remains constant for the next decade at about 2,000 a year.
There is a 50 percent chance of another catastrophic 9-11-style attack in the next ten years, according to a new research
First, they looked at history and determined that a 9/11-magnitute attack, which killed nearly 3,000 people, had a likelihood of 11 to 35% any time in the last 40 years, according to the Technology Review, which is published by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Then they calculated the likelihood of another similar size attack if terrorist incidents remain at the same level they are now. Their conclusion: The chance of another 9/11 in the next decade is 20 to 50%.
However, Dr. Aaron Clauset and Dr. Ryan Woodward also admitted that it’s possible the number of terrorist attacks is likely to decline after US involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq ends.
The study only looked at numbers until 2007, when Americans still had an active military presence in the country.
If terrorist attacks drop off, the probability of another major terrorist attack is reduced to 5 and 20%.
The researchers also played out a third, more dire scenario, using their formula.
If the number of attacks in the next decade increases dramatically, then the chance of a major terrorist event becomes a near certainty: 95%.
The formula doesn’t take into account increased security around the world or the billions of dollars the US and other developed nations have poured into preventing additional catastrophic attacks.