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#Berlin attack: Police say lorry crash 'probably terror attack'




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_93041015_5a4202c5-53a3-4284-aef1-1814e8ad5e90German police are investigating a "probable terrorist attack" after a man ploughed a lorry into a Christmas market in the heart of Berlin on 19 December, killing 12 people and injuring 48.

The driver, reportedly a Pakistani asylum seeker who entered Germany last year, is being questioned.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said it would be "particularly sickening" if he were proven to be a refugee.


He was reportedly known to police for minor crimes, but not terror links.

German media say police have searched a refugee shelter at a defunct Berlin airport where the suspect was believed to be staying.

Live: Latest updates


'I heard the noise and the screams' - eyewitness accounts

In a short statement on Tuesday (20 December), Merkel said those behind the attack would be punished "as harshly as the law allows".

What happened?

The market is at Breitscheidplatz, close to the Kurfuerstendamm, the main shopping street in Berlin's west.

The attack 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 (19:14 GMT), one of its busiest times. It crashed through wooden huts and stands packed with tourists and locals.

The DPA news agency said police believe the lorry drove 50-80 metres (160-260 ft) through the market area.

What do we know about the suspect?

German media have identified the suspect, citing security sources, as a 23-year-old Pakistani named Naved B.

Reports said special forces had stormed a hangar at Berlin's Tempelhof airport where they believed the suspect had been living in a shelter before the attack.

Police spokesman Winfried Wenzel said he was seized after leaving the lorry and fleeing on foot for more than a mile (2km) towards the Tiergarten, a large public park.

A witness who followed him called the police, who quickly detained the suspect near the Victory Column monument.

Where did the lorry come from?

Police said a Polish man, believed to be the original driver, had been found dead on the passenger seat.

Ariel Zurawski, the Polish owner of the lorry, confirmed that his driver was missing and had been unreachable since 16h (15h GMT) on Monday.

"We don't know what happened to him," he told the AFP news agency. "He's my cousin, I've known him since I was a kid. I can vouch for him."

The truck was registered in Poland, but it is unclear whether it was travelling from Poland or returning from Italy, as some reports suggest.

How has Germany reacted?

"We are in mourning for the dead and hope that the many injured can get help," Chancellor Merkel's spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said after the attack.

The interior ministry said Christmas markets in Berlin would remain closed on Tuesday.

A senior member of Germany's anti-immigration AfD party, Marcus Pretzell, blamed Merkel for the attack, linking it to her open-door migration policy which saw the arrival of more than one million people last year.

What do eyewitnesses say happened?

A British eyewitness, Mike Fox, told Associated Press that the 25-tonne lorry had missed him by only about three metres as it smashed through stands and knocked down a large Christmas tree.

"It was definitely deliberate," said the tourist.

He said he had helped people who appeared to have broken limbs, and that others were trapped under Christmas stands.

Australian Trisha O'Neill told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation she witnessed "blood and bodies everywhere".

"I just saw this huge black truck speeding through the markets crushing so many people and then all the lights went out and everything was destroyed.

"I could hear screaming and then we all froze. Then suddenly people started to move and lift all the wreckage off people, trying to help whoever was there."

Is this the first such attack?

A series of small-scale attacks by Islamist militants alarmed Germany earlier this year. Ten people were killed and dozens more injured in separate gun, bomb, axe and machete attacks in Bavaria and Baden-Wuerttemberg in July.

A year of terror in Germany

But Monday's incident was reminiscent of the lorry attack on Bastille Day crowds in the French city of Nice on 14 July, claimed by so-called Islamic State (IS).

The mayor of Nice, Philippe Pradal, said the Berlin incident shared the same "blind violence" as the attack on his city.

Both IS and al-Qaeda have urged their followers to use trucks as a means to attack crowds.

The US labelled the tragedy an apparent "terrorist attack" and pledged its support.

President-elect Donald Trump blamed "Islamist terrorists" for a "slaughter" of Christians in the German capital.

"Today there were terror attacks in Turkey, Switzerland and Germany - and it is only getting worse. The civilized world must change thinking!" he tweeted.


‘Europe can – and clearly should – be able and willing to do more on its own’ von der Leyen



European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen reflected on the precipitous end to the NATO mission in Afghanistan in her ‘State of the EU’ (SOTEU) address. The summer's events have given new impetus to the European Defence Union. 

Von der Leyen described the situation as raising “deeply troubling questions” for the NATO allies, with its consequences for Afghanis, service men and women, as well as for diplomatic and aid workers. Von der Leyen announced that she anticipated a joint EU-NATO statement to be presented before the end of the year, saying that “we” are currently working on this with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.

European Defence Union


Many have been critical of the EU’s failure to use its battlegroups. Von der Leyen attacked the issue head on: “You can have the most advanced forces in the world – but if you are never prepared to use them - of what use are they?” She said the problem wasn’t a lack of capacity, but a lack of political will. 

Von der Leyen said the upcoming Strategic Compass document, to be finalized in November, is key to this discussion: “We need to decide how we can use all of the possibilities that are already in the Treaty. This is why, under the French Presidency, President Macron and I will convene a Summit on European defence. It is time for Europe to step up to the next level.”

Von der Leyen called for greater information-sharing for better situational awareness, sharing of intelligence and information, as well as drawing together all services from aid providers to those who could lead on police training. Secondly, she called for improved interoperability through common European platforms, on everything from fighter jets to drones. She threw out the idea of waiving VAT when buying defence equipment developed and produced in the EU, arguing that this would help interoperability and decrease dependency. Finally, on cyber she said that the EU needed a European Cyber Defence Policy, including legislation on common standards under a new European Cyber Resilience Act.


What are we waiting for?

Speaking after von der Leyen’s speech, chairman of the European Peoples’ Party Manfred Weber MEP said: “I fully welcome the initiatives from the defence council in Ljubjana. But what are we waiting for? The Lisbon Treaty gives us all options, so let's do it and let's do it now.” He said that President Biden had already made it clear that the US no longer wanted to be the world's policeman and added that both China and Russia were waiting to fill the vacuum: “We would wake up in a world in which our children will not want to live.”

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20 years since 9/11: Statement by the High Representative/Vice President Josep Borrell



On 11 September 2001, the deadliest attack in US history killed nearly 3,000 people and injured more than 6,000 when hijacked passenger flights crashed into the World Trade Centre, the Pentagon and into a field in Somerset County, Pennsylvania.

We honour the memory of those who lost their lives on this day, 20 years ago. The victims of terrorism are not forgotten. I express my heartfelt sympathy to the American people, especially those who lost their loved ones in the attacks. Terror attacks are attacks against us all.

9/11 marked a turn in history. It fundamentally changed the global political agenda – for the first time ever, NATO invoked Article 5, allowing its members to respond together in self-defense, and it launched the war against Afghanistan.


20 years on, terrorist groups such as Al Qaida and Da’esh remain active and virulent in many parts of the world, for example in the Sahel, Middle East and Afghanistan. Their attacks have caused thousands of victims around the world, enormous pain and suffering. They attempt to destroy lives, damage communities and change our way of life. Seeking to destabilise countries as a whole, they prey in particular on fragile societies, but also our Western democracies and the values we stand for. They remind us that terrorism is a threat we live with every day.

Now, as then, we stand determined to fight terrorism in all its forms, anywhere. We stand in admiration, humility and gratitude to those who risk their lives to protect us from this threat and to those who respond in the aftermath of attacks.

Our counter-terrorism experience has taught us that there are no easy answers, or quick fixes. Responding to terrorism and violent extremism by force and military might alone will not help to win hearts and minds. The EU has therefore taken an integrated approach, addressing the root causes of violent extremism, cutting off terrorists’ financing sources and curbing terrorist content online. Five EU security and defence missions around the world are mandated to contribute to the fight against terrorism. In all our efforts, we commit to protect innocent lives, our citizens and our values, as well as uphold human rights and international law.


The recent events in Afghanistan oblige us to rethink our approach, working with our strategic partners, such as the United States and through multilateral efforts, including with the United Nations, the Global Coalition to Defeat Da’esh and the Global Counter Terrorism Forum (GCTF).

On this day, we should not forget that the only way forward is to stand united and firm against all who seek to damage and divide our societies. The EU will continue to work together with the United States and all its partners to make this world a safer place.

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Statement by Crisis Management Commissioner Janez Lenarčič on the International Day to Protect Education from Attack



On the occasion of the International Day to Protect Education from Attack (9 September), the EU reaffirms its commitment to promote and protect the right of every child to grow in a safe environment, have access to quality education, and build a better and more peaceful future, says Janez Lenarčič (pictured).

Attacks on schools, students and teachers have a devastating impact on access to education, education systems and on societal development. Sadly, their incidence is increasing at an alarming rate. This is all too clear from the recent developments in Afghanistan, and the crises in Ethiopia, Chad, Africa's Sahel region, in Syria, Yemen or Myanmar, amongst many others. The Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack has identified more than 2,400 attacks on education facilities, students, and educators in 2020, a 33 percent increase since 2019.

Attacks on education constitute also violations of International Humanitarian Law, the set of rules seeking to limit the effects of armed conflict. Such violations are multiplying, while their perpetrators are seldom called to account. In this view, we are putting compliance with International Humanitarian Law consistently at the heart of the EU's external action. As one of the largest humanitarian donors, the EU will hence continue to promote and advocate for global respect for International Humanitarian Law, both by states and non-state armed groups during an armed conflict.


Beyond destruction of facilities, attacks on education result in long-term suspension of learning and teaching, increase the risk of school dropouts, lead to forced labour and recruitment by armed groups and forces. School closures reinforce exposure to all forms of violence, including sexual and gender-based violence or early and forced marriage, levels of which have increased drastically during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The COVID-19 pandemic exposed and exacerbated the vulnerability of education worldwide. Now, more than ever, we need to minimise disruption to education disruption, and ensure that children can learn in safety and protection.

Safety of education, including further engagement on the Safe Schools Declaration, is an integral part of our efforts to protect and promote the right to education for every girl and boy.


Responding to and preventing attacks on schools, supporting protective aspects of education and protecting students and teachers requires a coordinated and inter-sectoral approach.

Through EU-funded projects in Education in Emergencies, we help reduce and mitigate the risks posed by armed conflict.

The EU remains at the forefront of supporting education in emergencies, dedicating 10% of its humanitarian aid budget to support access, quality and protection of education.

More information

Factsheet - Education in Emergencies

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