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Pope Francis prays for victims of Berlin lorry attack

Floral tributes at the scene of the lorry attack (AP)

Pope Francis is urging people of good will to fight the “folly of terrorism”, following Monday’s lorry attack on a Christmas market that left 12 people dead and a further 48 injured.

In a telegram sent on Tuesday to Archbishop Heiner Koch of Berlin by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin on the Pope’s behalf, the cardinal said the Pope is praying for the people killed and injured by “the terrible act of violence.”

Francis joins “all men of good will” who have committed themselves to efforts “so that the murderous folly of terrorism finds no more room in our world,” the telegram said.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said it must be assumed that the attack on the Christmas market was an act of terrorism, while authorities expressed uncertainty over whether they had arrested the correct suspect.

The attack happened on Monday evening when the lorry was driven into the popular Christmas market filled with tourists and locals outside the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church near Berlin’s Zoo station.

Police detained an asylum seeker from Pakistan shortly afterwards, but he denied involvement, Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said. The man had entered Germany on December 31 last year and arrived in Berlin in February.

Berlin police chief Klaus Kandt said on Tuesday it wasn’t clear whether the man detained was really the driver.

“We haven’t been able to confirm it yet,” he told reporters.

Berlin police urged people to remain “particularly vigilant” and to report “suspicious movement” to a special hotline.

In a statement widely broadcast on German television, Merkel described herself as “shocked, shaken and deeply saddened.”

“There is still a lot that we don’t know about this act with sufficient certainty,” she said. “But we must, as things stand, assume it was a terrorist attack.”