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Report: ISIS Claims Responsibility for Berlin Attack

Report: ISIS Claims Responsibility for Berlin Attack

(AP Photo)

By    |   Tuesday, 20 December 2016 02:43 PM

The Islamic State  claimed responsibility Tuesday for the Berlin attack Monday that killed 12 people and injured 50 others when a truck plowed through a Christmas market.

ISIS made its declaration — saying the driver was a "soldier of the Islamic State" — through its AMAQ News Agency, which was confirmed via several Twitter posts by the SITE Intelligence Group:

"The person who carried out the truck run over attack in Berlin is a soldier of the Islamic State and carried out the attack in response to calls for targeting citizens of the crusader coalition," the terrorist group said in its statement.

But State Department spokesman John Kirby told CNN that "we don't have enough information to back up the claims by ISIS that they inspired or directed or were in any way involved in this.

"We think it's prudent for the Germans to treat this as a plausible terrorist attack," Kirby told Jake Tapper. "That makes sense. There is no direct evidence."

German police are continued hunting for the driver of the truck, which slammed into the downtown Christmas market late Monday.

The Berlin attack marks the third assault by a vehicle the Islamic State has claimed responsibility for this year. The others include last month's attack at Ohio State University, and another in Nice, France, in July.

At OSU, a Somali immigrant drove a car into a crowd — then jumped out and began stabbing people — before he was fatally shot by police. Thirteen people were hospitalized.

In the French attack, 86 people died and 434 were injured when a 19-ton cargo truck was driven into crowds celebrating Bastille Day.

Kirby told Tapper that the Berlin assault "bears the hallmarks of what happened in Nice in July.

"We think it's prudent, obviously, to go forward with that, at least being one plausible explanation," he added. "We don't have any more information."

Germany is not involved in anti-ISIS combat operations.

However, it does have Tornado jets and a refueling plane stationed in Turkey to support the coalition fighting militants in Syria, as well as a frigate protecting a French aircraft carrier in the Mediterranean.

The assault led other European countries to step up security efforts.

Italy said it would tighten surveillance for Christmas events, including Pope Francis' appearance at St. Peter's Square, The Washington Post reports.

In the Czech Republic, officials promised "massive" security at public events on Christmas and as the New Year approaches.

French officials, reflecting on the July tragedy, said that security at Christmas markets were immediately reinforced.

Earlier Tuesday, German authorities released a 23-year-old Pakistani asylum-seeker who was suspected of driving the truck in the Berlin attack because they lacked sufficient evidence.

The truck smashed into wooden huts serving mulled wine and sausages Monday evening at the foot of the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, one of Berlin's most famous landmarks.

Thirty of the 50 people hurt sustained severe injuries, police said.

The truck belonged to a Polish freight company — and its rightful driver was found shot dead in the vehicle, authorities said. The Polish truck driver had arrived hours earlier in Berlin and had spoken to his wife about 3 p.m., according to his cousin.

In Germany, the Chief Federal Prosecutor's Office said in a statement it had been unable to prove the Pakistani suspect had been in the cabin of the truck at the time of the attack and said he had denied any involvement.

Earlier, Die Welt newspaper quoted an unnamed police chief as saying: "We have the wrong man. And, therefore, a new situation.

"The true perpetrator is still armed, at large and can cause fresh damage," the chief said.

Commenting on the suspect's release Tuesday evening, German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere told ZDF television: "That's why it is true that one cannot rule out that the perpetrator is still at large."

De Maiziere said there was still no doubt the Berlin incident had been an attack but the motive remained unclear. He added it was not yet known how many foreigners were among the victims of the attack, adding no children had been among the dead.

News of the arrest of the Pakistani had led politicians in Germany and beyond to demand a crackdown on immigration, but Chancellor Angela Merkel urged caution.

"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 told reporters Tuesday.

"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," she added.

In the United States, President-elect Donald Trump condemned the attack Tuesday — as well as the brazen shooting of Russia's ambassador to Turkey at an art exhibit earlier Monday — and Trump vowed to eradicate terrorism and its many worldwide networks.

Trump called the assassination of the diplomat, Andrei Karlov, "a violation of all rules of civilized order," saying he had been killed by a "radical Islamic terrorist."

The president-elect said on Twitter:

Turkish authorities identified the gunman as Mevlut Mert Altintas, a member of Ankara's riot police squad, and said he was later killed in a shootout with police.

Altintas shouted in Turkish about the Syrian city of Aleppo and also yelled "Allahu akbar," Arabic for "God is great."

In addition, President Barack Obama telephoned Merkel on Monday — and "the president reiterated the U.S. offer of assistance and underscored that no attack could sway our determination, and that of our German allies, to defeat terrorism in all of its forms," White House deputy press secretary Eric Schultz said.

"The president expressed his appreciation for Chancellor Merkel's steadfast leadership in our shared efforts to root out the scourge of terrorism and defend our way of life," he said, according to Breitbart News.

Schultz also described the assault as a "horrific apparent terrorist attack."

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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The Islamic State claimed responsibility Tuesday for the Berlin attack Monday that killed 12 people and injured 50 others when a truck plowed through a Christmas market.
Berlin, truck, attack, radical islamic terrorism
Tuesday, 20 December 2016 02:43 PM
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