19th December, 2016
On 19th December at around noon, 37 year-old Polish lorry driver, Lukasz, parks up and calls his cousin and boss, Ariel Zurawski to check in.
Having been on the road for almost one week Lukasz is tired and keen to get home.
The two joke and laugh together for a few moments.
Lukasz tells Ariel that he is hungry and that where he is parked there are, “mostly Muslims”.
Between noon and 1pm
Lukasz goes to get a kebab. His cargo,24 tonnes of steel parts is to be unloaded the next morning.
Lukasz uses his break to speak to his wife on the phone.
As is common practice among trucking companies, Ariel is keeping track of his cousin’s progress using a GPS (Global Positioning System) tracker. This has enabled authorities to piece together what happened next.
The lorry stalls. Perhaps Lukasz is trying to escape or maybe the attacker is trying to get to grips with the controls.
The lorry stalls again. In Poland, Ariel starts wondering what is going on.
The GPS shows strange, back and forth movement from the lorry. This could have been from a struggle to take control of the vehicle but Ariel later recognises it as a novice at the wheel.
“At 3.45 p.m. you can see the movement on the GPS. The car moved forward and back. As if someone was learning to drive it,” Zurawski told Polish public broadcaster TVP, adding, “I knew something was wrong.”
Lukasz’s wife calls once again but is unable to get through.
“The phone was just silent, silent. He should have picked up if he was on a break, particularly if his wife was calling,” explains Zurawski.
After driving a short distance, the truck arrives at the Christmas market in the heart of West Berlin, near the ruins of the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church.
GPS data shows that the lorry drives another short distance in a way that, again, suggests a “beginner” is at the wheel, choking the engine. Ariel Zurawski attempts to contact his cousin Lukasz unsuccessfully. He grows more concerned.
As crowds gather at the bustling Christmas market in Breitscheidplatz, to shop and enjoy mulled wine and sausages, the lorry is driven “with more purpose” towards the scene of the attack.
The lorry’s headlights are switched off and moments later, the 25-tonne, heavily-loaded, Scania lorry smashes through the crowd, toppling wooden stalls and Christmas trees. Twelve people die and 50 are injured. Lukasz has been shot and stabbed. Leaving his dead body in the passenger seat the driver flees. An onlooker, believing he has spotted the attacker, gives chase.
Amateur footage from the wake of the attack is broadcast on several news agencies showing the bodies of victims lying in the wreckage around the lorry while a huge rescue and security operation is mounted by the authorities. It is not immediately clear whether the incident is accidental or not but parallels with the Bastile Day attack at Nice are already being drawn.
The bystander who chased the suspect for approximately 1.5km in the direction of Tiergarten Park alerts police. A 23 year old Pakistani national is arrested at the scene.
Eye witnesses start to give statements to the press.
“I heard a big noise and then I moved on the Christmas market and saw much chaos…many injured people,” Jan Hollitzer, deputy editor in chief of Berliner Morgenpost, told CNN. “It was really traumatic.”
Emma Rushton, a tourist visiting Berlin, told CNN the truck seemed to be traveling at about 40 mph (65 km/h).
One unnamed witness tells reporters:“As we were leaving the large truck came through. It went just past me, past my girlfriend. I think it missed me by three metres, missed her by five. It came in through the entrance, hit the sides of the barriers and then carried on past us.”
Another witness says:“A truck drove in there and simply drove over people, and then I was over there (pointing). I saw how it drove in there, and then he ran away. Then I heard shots, and then I went back, and after two minutes the police were here, and they controlled the truck.”
Berlin police ask residents to remain indoors as they start overnight questioning of the suspect. He denies any knowledge of the attack. Meanwhile Investigators and Special forces prepare to conduct raids at his domicile, temporary refugee accommodation at a disused aircraft hangar in Tempelhof airport.
20th December, 2016
As shocked Berliners make their way to work, the lorry is towed away for forensic analysis.
The suspect is named as 23-year old, “Naved B”. He is said to have entered Germany on New Year’s Eve last year from Pakistan but later reports say he had been on a temporary residence permit since June 2016.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks at a press conference in which she says: “We must treat this as a terrorist attack”, adding “this unspeakable event will be as severely punished as the law will allow”.
Her political opponents and populist leaders are quick to pin the blame for the attack on her immigration policy. Even her allies call for changes to German immigration and security policy.
“We owe it to the victims, to those affected and to the whole population to rethink our immigration and security policy and to change it,” announces Horst Seehofer, leader of Bavaria’s Christian Social Union (CSU) – the sister party to Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU).
Terrible news from Berlin but no surprise. Events like these will be the Merkel legacy.— Nigel Farage (@Nigel_Farage) December 20, 2016
Russian President, Vladimir Putin still dealing with the aftermath of Russian Ambassador Andrei Karlov’s murder,writes to Merkel saying: “This crime against peaceful civilians is shocking in its savage cynicism.”
US President Barack Obama is next up to speak to Merkel, offering condolences and US help, meanwhile other European cities heighten security at Christmas events.
German Interior Minister, Thomas de Maizière announces that 18 of the 50 wounded people are “very seriously injured” before signing the book of condolences.
“We have the wrong man,” admits a senior police chief. “And therefore a new situation. The true perpetrator is still armed, at large and can cause fresh damage,” Die Welt newspaper quotes the source as saying.
The German Chief Federal Prosecutor announces that detained suspect, “Naved B”, has been released.
Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks to the leaders of France, Turkey, Italy, Greece, Poland, Sweden and Spain on the phone about the deadly attack.
“In light of the victims of yesterday’s attack on the Christmas market at Breitscheidplatz in Berlin, the heads of state and government expressed their heartfelt condolences,” government spokesman Steffen Seibert says in a statement.
The foreign leaders assure their support and emphasise the need for European solidarity in the “fight against terrorism”.
ISIL claim responsibility for the attack. The terrorist organization’s propaganda news agency says: “The executor of the operation…in Berlin is a soldier of the Islamic state and he executed the operation in response to calls to target nationals of the coalition countries.”
German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere hits back at ISIL’s claims saying:
“We just heard about the supposed claim of responsibility by this so-called Islamic State that is in fact a gang of terrorists.There are several leads that investigators are following now” before affirming, “nobody will rest until the perpetrator or the perpetrators are caught.”
21st December, 2016
German media report that a second arrest has taken place in the early hours of the morning.
Local publication, Der Spiegel, report that the Police are looking for a Tunisian man aged 24, named “Anis A” born in Tataouine, after discovering an ID under the driver’s seat.