Cardinal Reinhard Marx, the president of the German Bishops’ Conference, has said Germans “should stand together as a society” after the lorry attack on a Christmas market in Berlin that has left 12 people dead and a further 48 people injured.
Police said on Tuesday that the driver who rammed the vehicle into the crowded market did so intentionally and that they are investigating a suspected “terror attack”.
The lorry struck the popular Christmas market filled with tourists and locals outside the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church near Berlin’s Zoo station late on Monday.
In a statement on the German Bishops’ Conference, Cardinal Marx said news of the attack had left him “deeply shaken”.
“The violence on the Christmas market is the opposite of what the visitors wanted, and my compassion is for the relatives of the dead and the injured. I will pray for our country to should stand together as a society,” he said.
On Twitter, Archbishop Heiner Koch of Berlin offered “thanks and appreciation to all security forces, paramedics and emergency chaplains”. He also invited people to pray for family members and victims at St Hedwig’s Cathedral at midday on Tuesday.
Numerous German media outlets reported that a suspect, who was picked up about 2km from the crash site, was a Pakistani citizen.
Footage showed the suspect, his head covered in a white sheet, being pushed into a police car shortly after the attack.
Berlin’s public radio station RBB-Inforadio cited security sources saying the man entered Germany on December 31, 2015. News agency DPA, also citing unnamed security sources, said he came to Germany as a refugee in February 2016. Berlin’s Tagesspiegel newspaper reported that the man was known to police for minor crimes.
Police declined to comment on the reports, referring questions to federal prosecutors who said they would hold a news conference Tuesday afternoon.
A spokesman for Berlin’s office for refugee affairs said police conducted a large-scale search overnight at a large shelter for asylum-seekers at the city’s now-defunct Tempelhof airport overnight. Four men in the late 20s were questioned but nobody was arrested, Sascha Langenbach told the Associated Press.
Among the dead was a man in the truck, who succumbed as paramedics treated him, Berlin police spokesman Winfried Wenzel said. Police said later that the man was a Polish national, but didn’t give further details of who he was or what happened to him.
The Polish owner of the truck said he feared the vehicle may have been hijacked. Ariel Zurawski said he last spoke with the driver, his cousin, around noon, and the driver told him he was in Berlin and scheduled to unload Tuesday morning. “They must have done something to my driver,” he told TVN24.