Berlin- Police in Germany are working on the assumption that an armed attacker is still at large after doubts emerged over whether a man held in custody since Monday night was the suspected driver of a truck that rammed into a crowded Christmas market in Berlin, killing 12 people and wounding dozens more.
“We need to work on the assumption that an armed perpetrator is still on the loose. As a result of this we are on high alert,” said Holger Munch, head of the Federal Criminal Police Office.
Berlin police said on Twitter they were being vigilant as the suspect had denied involvement in the incident.
“The temporary arrested suspect denies the offence,” the force tweeted.
“Therefore we are particularly alert. Please be also alert,” they urged the public.
Doubts over the detained man were first reported in the German newspaper Die Welt, which quoted a high-ranking security source who said: “We have the wrong man, and therefore the situation has changed. It means the real perpetrator is still armed and still at liberty, and can cause damage.”
The suspect taken into custody shortly after the attack was a 23-year-old of Pakistani origin who arrived in Germany last year. He has denied any involvement, the interior minister, Thomas de Maiziere, said.
At a press conference on Tuesday morning, the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, said: “We have to assume we are dealing with a terrorist attack.”
“It would be particularly hard to bear for all of us if it was confirmed that a person committed this crime who asked for protection and asylum in Germany,” she added.
“This would be particularly repugnant in the face of the many, many Germans who have dedicated themselves day after day to helping refugees, and in the face of the many people who actually need our protection and try to integrate into our country.”
The scenes instantly revived nightmarish memories of the July 14 truck assault in the French Riviera city of Nice where 86 people were killed.