Apparent Berlin Terror Attack Kills 12, Injures Dozens

Another attack in what has been a bloody 2016 for Europe.

Berlin Market Attack

German officials have labeled an incident yesterday at a Berlin Christmas market where twelve people were killed and dozens injured when a heavy truck crashed into a crowd an act of terror, bringing up memories of a similar attack in July at a Bastille Day celebration in Nice, France:

BERLIN — Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany said that the Berlin Christmas market where 12 people died Monday night was the target of a terrorist attack.

The German interior minister, Thomas de Maizière, said that a man arrested on suspicion of involvement in the attack was a 23-year-old Pakistani who had applied for asylum.

“We must assume at the current time that it was a terrorist attack,” Ms. Merkel said on Tuesday. “I know that it would be particularly difficult for all of us to bear if it is confirmed that this deed was carried out by a person who sought protection and asylum in Germany.”

Ms. Merkel, dressed in black, made a brief appearance before reporters, saying that she was “horrified, shaken and deeply sad.”

It will be punished “as severely as our laws demand,” Ms. Merkel said. Her policy of admitting refugees by the hundreds of thousands is likely to come under further scrutiny both from allies and from the populist right-wing Alternative for Germany party.

In the attack, a tractor-trailer truck jumped a sidewalk around 8 p.m. and plowed into the market near the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, a symbolic Berlin site whose spire, jagged from bomb damage, was intentionally left unrepaired after World War II.

The driver fled after the attack. The police said they later arrested a man near the scene who was suspected of involvement.

Mr. de Maizière said in a late-morning news conference that the suspect entered Germany and applied for asylum on Dec. 31, 2015, and reached Berlin in February. Several hearings were scheduled in his asylum case, Mr. de Maizière said, but the man did not appear, so the application has not been processed.

Officials in Berlin have been straining to deal with a flood of asylum applications. Although the number of arrivals has slowed recently from a high point in the summer of 2015, tens of thousands remain in communal housing, awaiting processing of their applications.

Besides the 12 dead, 48 people were wounded at the Berlin market, 18 of them critically, Mr. de Maizière said.

Seeking clues about the attacker and his motives, the German special police conducted a search at the refugee shelter at Tempelhof Airport in Berlin early Tuesday, a security official said, declining to give details.

A spokeswoman for the Berlin city authorities referred all queries to the federal prosecutor’s office in Karlsruhe, which was put in charge of the investigation.

The Berlin police appealed to anyone who was at the Christmas market or in the vicinity Monday night to send them any videos or photographs of the attack and to refrain from posting the material on social media.

Frauke Petry of the Alternative for Germany party said in a statement early Tuesday that “Germany is no longer safe,” and told citizens that it would be Ms. Merkel’s “duty to tell you that.”

Noting the successive terrorist attacks in France, including a truck driven into a crowded beachfront promenade in Nice in July, Ms. Petry called the carnage at the Berlin market “not just an attack on our freedom and our way of life but also on our Christian tradition.”

The side of the market where the truck slammed into the crowd remained cordoned off early Tuesday. Police officers patrolled the area, as Berlin residents bearing flowers and candles placed them at makeshift memorials on either side of the church.

Subsequent reporting this morning has said that German police apparently have concluded that the person placed under arrest last night in the wake of the attack was not the driver of the truck and may not be connected to the attack at all, although it’s unclear if they have been released or if they are still being questioned to see if they have any knowledge in connection to the attack. The attack itself, of course, took place mere hours after the Russian Ambassador to Turkey was shot and killed as he was beginning to speak at an event in Ankara by a member of the Turkish police who shouted Islamist slogans and brought up the ongoing slaughter and refugee crisis in Aleppo, Syria. In addition to this incident, there was also reportedly an incident at the U.S. Embassy in Ankara where an unidentified man fired shots in the air as well as a shooting outside an Islamic Center in Zurich, Switzerland. Neither motivation nor responsibility have been determined in either of those two cases, or indeed in the attack in Berlin. However, the fact that the Berlin attack in particular appears to mirror the terror attack in Nice in July as well as recommendations for “lone wolf” terrorists in the West that have made by ISIS and its affiliates in recent years.

In any case, this attack caps off what has been quite a bloody year in Europe as far as terror attacks go, and is likely to add to the tension that has been building between Europeans and the refugees from Syria and elsewhere whose populations have been the source for many of the perpetrators of these attacks. In Germany in particular, it’s likely to cause further problems for Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is standing for re-election early next year and who has been on the receiving end of criticism for allowing hundreds of thousands of refugees into the country during her time in office. Given the fact that the truck originated in Poland, it’s also likely to raise questions about the open borders policies mandated by the European Union, although we admittedly don’t know as of yet if the truck left Poland with the intent of being used as a weapon, or whether or where it was potentially hijacked. If nothing else, though, this is likely to refocus European attention on ISIS and the war in Syria just as we prepare for a change in power in the United States that will take our policy in that area in an as yet unknown direction.

FILED UNDER: Europe, National Security, Terrorism,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook


  1. Mu says:

    The big issue is that these attacks play into the hands of the AdF, the new populist party in Germany. And it becomes very likely that getting a stable government after next fall’s elections will be exceedingly difficult as no two-party coalition will have enough seats for a majority. This has never happened in the history of the post-war BRD. The only thing that could prevent that would be a Merkel resignation, and a drastically changed course by the governing coalition in regards to the refugees (Merkel has too much political faith vested in the refugee acceptance to be a believable leader of a change in policy). But as the European high court has declared that mere immigration violations are not sufficient reason to jail someone pending deportation it’s not even clear that it’s possible to change the approach under German and European law as it stands.

  2. Slugger says:

    Berlin ist in unsern Gedanken und Herzen. Berlin bleidt doch Berlin, immer!
    The newspapers in Berlin this morning convey solemnity rather than anger to my reading. The Berliner Zeitung called the AdF the “Angst-Partei” which I would translate as the Fear Party in a non complimentary manner. I did not see a big retreat into alt-right nationalism. I should mention that I was totally wrong about American politics recently.

  3. Rick Zhang says:

    The CDP has no choice but to move to the right to appropriate the ground currently occupied by AdF. The problem is that they have no credibility as long as Merkel is in power. Therefore, she has to go, just as Cameron made way for May. This is coming from someone who is a fan of her thoughtful and technocratic approach to governing, faith which has been shaken over the last few years over her decisions about the Greek debt crisis and the refugee crisis. Merkel forced those issues down the throats of the people, the former by sacrificing European solidarity to curry favour among Germans, and the latter in some misguided attempt to either atone for German historical racism or thinking too long term (the boost to the labour force and population would be welcomed in 20-30 years if these newcomers are properly integrated).

    However, the short term transitional costs may result in a breakup of the EU and Eurozone, as well as turning Germany into Belgium or France in terms of % Muslims and the frequency of terrorist activities. Immigration is best done slowly and taking in people with a willingness to integrate if not fully assimilate. So far, European Muslims have not shown either of those.

  4. Mikey says:

    @Rick Zhang:

    Immigration is best done slowly and taking in people with a willingness to integrate if not fully assimilate. So far, European Muslims have not shown either of those.

    The French have a long and unsavory history in North Africa and have generally treated North African immigrants like shit, relegating them to the depressed banlieues and looking down upon them.

    At least the Germans have done a reasonable job of welcoming the Turks who have immigrated, and who have in large part been assimilated (in many cases now into the second and third generations).

    I would not have high expectations of assimilation for the current group of war refugees, given that many if not most will want to return to their homelands after the war ends which they hope is soon. Some will stay, of course, because some always do. On the other hand, we shouldn’t accede to the fear-mongering of groups like AfD.

    I think there’s a certain level of sympathy for war refugees among older Germans, many of whom (including my wife’s mother and her family) were themselves displaced during World War 2.

  5. Rick Zhang says:


    The Germans have done a good job only relative to their European peers. Talking to Germans, there is still an undercurrent of otherness associated with the Turkish community, which live in their own barrios in town, eat separate foods (though Tyler Cowen would argue that the doner is the official food of Germany), and worship in different places. By measures of achievement and success, even second and third generation Turks do less well than native Germans. In fact, Turkish newspapers there follow events in Turkey and Erdogan’s messages more intently than that of standard German politicians. This led to Ozdemir warning his community that the long reach of Erdogan must not interfere with domestic German politics.

    Those Turks who have managed to assimilate are either mixed (Leyla Lydia Tuğutlu, ) or secular (Cem Ozdemir, though he is also a Circassian).

    I would argue that in modern times, it’s much easier to remain tethered to one’s native culture than assimilate. The proliferation of easily obtainable TV shows and restrictive social networks allow Moroccans in France and Turks in Germany to consume media from their country of origin (sometimes with a heavy Saudi influence). It’s the same thing in large metropolitan cities up and down the west coast. Some of my friends’ parents still don’t speak English after 20+ years of living in the US. Come to my parents’ house and everything – the media, the language, the TV shows – will all still be in Chinese.

  6. Tyrell says:

    Merkel will have to exert strong, decisive leadetship: no doubt
    about that.

  7. Mu says:

    The big issue for Turks in Germany was that for the longest time males were excluded from German citizenship, as Turkey wouldn’t release them from their citizenship without doing 2 years compulsive military training, and Germany didn’t accept double citizenship. They finally changed that 10 years ago, but it’s back up for discussion following recent events.

  8. bill says:

    more “workplace violence” across the pond?!….

  9. michael reynolds says:

    @Rick Zhang:

    I think that’s a very interesting point about the internet making assimilation less necessary to many immigrants.

  10. Rick Zhang says:

    @michael reynolds:

    It works in all ways. North American retirees who move to Latin America and live in “gringo” colonies want to preserve their culture and language. Why do we give them a pass and not do the same for immigrants to the US who do even better and try to learn some of the local culture and language?

  11. bill says:

    @Rick Zhang: because the “gringos” are retirees and not relying on the foreign gov’t. for assistance?! hence, anyone who wants to succeed and do business with them will try to adapt to their language and such. not like mexico is all that foreign to begin with, it is somewhat of a “western” culture, albeit a 3rd world version.

    let’s not forget this (condensed) prophetic quote from hillary about immigrants et al.
    she was pretty spot on about it, but it didn’t get much play in the msm for “some reason”…..

    “The main reason behind successful immigration should be painfully obvious to even the most dimwitted of observers: Some groups of people are almost always highly successful given only half a chance (Jews*, Hindus/Sikhs and Chinese people, for example), while others (Muslims, blacks** and Roma***, for instance) fare badly almost irrespective of circumstances.”

  12. Rick Zhang says:


    I think you’re projecting your own sense of supremacy onto people’s actions. Come to California, where the locals (Asians and whites alike) are learning Spanish because it’s increasingly necessary for jobs. I work in medicine and in the ED in southern California, maybe 20-30% of my patients per shift are Spanish-only speakers. I’m proud to say that I speak enough Spanish to interact with them without an interpreter. It’s better for patient care and is more efficient.

    Rather than have a hard and fast philosophy of “everyone should learn English” or “learn the language of the country where you’re living,” most people are survivalist focused. If the local need changes (e.g. Spanish in California), practical rather than ideological people will adapt based on the facts on the ground. We learn Spanish, Latin customs, and generally get along because that’s the reality.

    We don’t complain about it. Rather, cultural change is a fact of life and history. Turks displaced Greeks from Anatolia. Russians drove out the Tatars from the steppes. Brits colonized Australia and New Zealand. Christian Lebanese emigrated.

    It’s telling that the parts of the country most vehemently against immigration are the places most homogeneously white.

    As for the second part of your response, you’re treading dangerously close to HBD theories (soft racism, trying to justify things with imprecise studies and a veneer of science). Rather than attribute everything to innate IQ that’s presumably immutable, why not accept that culture and circumstance have a role? Islamic civilizations (especially in Persia and during the Middle Ages) had a vibrant scientific culture. Did they suddenly lose their vigour? Presumably stagnant corrupt governments and Wahhabist influence have had some impact. You throw around Hindus vs Muslims but neglect to mention that Pakistanis and Indians are close genetically, even if their performance differ. Are you also saying that if a Pakistani Muslim suddenly becomes agnostic, he will improve his performance?

    As for circumstance, studies have shown that voluntary economic migrants outperform involuntary (read: refugees, slaves) migrants. I am proud of the Chinese (and Jewish) focus on education, which carries over and is fostered among immigrant communities. However, that is a cultural quirk rather than a sign of racial superiority.

  13. bill says:

    @Rick Zhang: um, i speak spanglish and can communicate with most or the immigrants i work/worked with. my last gf was a legal immigrant who learned english so she could adapt to her new country. my son in law is 3rd gen mexican and might speak a tad more spanish than i.
    adapting to society is up to the individual and should be economically motivated. most cultures that come here adapt to their neighbors and still maintain some of their culture. the gov’t. has no business in enabling immigrants to maintain their heritage via accommodations like bi-lingual classes and such.
    but back to the topic, muslims have virtually nothing in common with our countries values and don’t seem willing to adapt to us. so we should not be importing them as hillary said.
    save for some parts of asia, islamic countries are disasters unless they have oil money- and those countries human rights records are nothing to brag about.
    as europe has been slow to learn, they’ve been had by their own guilt and need to stop the madness.