A police spokesman described the incident at the capital’s popular Christmas market at the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church on Monday evening as a “severe incident.” Some of the injuries are serious.
“A truck just ran over a sidewalk at #Breitscheidplatz Our colleague report multiple injuries. more to follow,” Berlin police tweeted. Later, they tweeted about the upped death toll, and said many of the dead and injured were college students.
Police spokesman Winfried Wenzel told ZDF public television a man was arrested not far from the scene of the crash, and officials were working to determine if it was in fact the driver.
A passenger in the truck died at the scene, police say. He was identified as Polish, but no other details were provided.
Wenzel said the truck was registered in Poland, and police later tweeted that they believed the truck was stolen from a Polish construction site.
That was in line with what had been reported earlier, namely that the Polish owner of the truck said he feared the vehicle, driven by his cousin, may have been hijacked. Ariel Zurawki said he last spoke with the driver around noon, and the driver told him he was in Berlin and scheduled to unload Tuesday morning.
Zurawki told TVN24 “they must have done something to my driver.”
The market is difficult to access by accident, and Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere told ARD television: “I don’t want to use the word ‘attack’ yet at the moment, although a lot speaks for it.”
De Maiziere added that “there is a psychological effect in the whole country of the choice of words here, and we want to be very, very cautious and operate close to the actual investigation results, not with speculation.”
Germany’s justice minister said federal prosecutors, who handle terrorism cases, were taking over the investigation. Heiko Maas didn’t give further details in a post on Twitter Monday night about the “shocking news” from the capital. He added: “we are mourning with the relatives” of the victims.
The White House also released a statement indicating the belief that this was a terrorist attack.
A witness, Emma Rushton, tweeted a photo of the incident and said the truck was going about 40 mph despite there not being a road nearby, and that the driver didn’t attempt to break.
With additional reporting by CNN.