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Truck plows through crowd at Christmas market in Berlin, killing 12

Berlin truck crash
Truck rams into Berlin Christmas market, killing at least nine 02:21

Latest on the Berlin Christmas market crash:

12:12 a.m. ET -- Police in Berlin said on Twitter that investigators believe the truck was deliberately driven into the Christmas market, and is considered “likely” a terrorist attack. 

8:52 p.m. ET -- Police in Berlin say the passenger who died in the truck that rammed into a Christmas market was a Polish national. 

In their posting on Twitter early Tuesday, police don’t identify the man or give other details.

The Polish owner of the truck said earlier that he feared the vehicle may have been hijacked.

Authorities say 12 people were killed when the truck smashed through the market. Four dozen people were taken to hospitals for injuries, some of the serious. 

7:57 p.m. ET -- Police in Berlin tweeted an updated death toll Monday evening after a truck plowed down a crowd at a Christmas market. 

Police raised the death toll from nine to 12 dead, and 48 injured.

6:47 p.m. ET -- Germany’s top security official says that he’s not ready to call the incident at the Berlin Christmas market an “attack,” but adds that there are many indications pointing to the truck crash that killed nine people as having been intentional. 

Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere tells ARD television: “I don’t want to use the word ‘attack’ yet at the moment, although a lot speaks for it.”

De Maiziere adds that “there is a psychological effect in the whole country of the choice of words here, and we want to be very, very cautious and operate close to the actual investigation results, not with speculation.” 

6:35 p.m. ET -- Vice president-elect Mike Pence said on Twitter that his prayers go out to the victims and families of “today’s terror attacks.” 

“Those who employ violence to inspire fear will not prevail,” he said.  

6:30 p.m. ET -- U.S. President-elect Donald Trump tweeted Monday evening about the truck crashing into a crowd at a Christmas market in Berlin. 

“Today there were terror attacks in Turkey, Switzerland and Germany -- and it is only getting worse. The civilized world must change thinking!” he said. 

He also released a statement, calling what happened in Berlin a “horrifying terror attack.”

“Innocent civilians were murdered in the streets as they prepared to celebrate the Christmas holiday,” the statement read. “ISIS and other Islamist terrorists continually slaughter Christians in their communities and places of worship as part of their global jihad. These terrorists and their regional and worldwide networks must be eradicated from the face of the earth, a mission we will carry out with all freedom-loving partners.”

6:15 p.m. ET -- Italian Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano says he was “deeply stricken and pained” by the deaths of nine people in Berlin when a heavy truck crashed into a Christmas market. 

Though German police say it is too early to call whether the incident was intentional, Aflano refers to as an attack.

In a statement provided by Italy’s foreign ministry, Alfano expresses closeness to Germans “in this sad moment that instead should be of joy and peace in the approach to the Christmas holidays.”

Alfano says attacks “won’t change our determination to combat terrorism” alongside international partners and in particular Germany, saying the two countries are in strict coordination.

Separately, Italy’s ambassador in Berlin, Pietro Benassi, told Italian state TV that German authorities couldn’t say yet if any foreigners were among the victims. 

6:04 p.m. ET -- Mike Fox, a tourist from Birmingham, England, told The Associated Press at the scene that the truck missed him by about three meters. 

“It was definitely deliberate,” Fox said. He said he helped people who appeared to have broken limbs, and that others were trapped under Christmas stands.

The truck came to a halt on a sidewalk on one side of the market, shortly after ramming a large stand called “Fascination Christmas,” ripping off one side and knocking down a large Christmas tree. The three-meter tree lay in the street, red and gold ornamental balls still attached to its limbs and a golden star at the top. 

5:42 p.m. ET -- The NYPD is monitoring the events in Germany and around the world today, and stepping up security, the Office of the Deputy Commissioner, Public Information (DCPI), said in a statement.

Police in U.S. reacting to Berlin truck incident 00:54

“The Department has moved highly trained teams, including the Critical Response Command, to high profile locations around New York City. In the coming days, we will look to learn more about what occurred to inform the NYPD’s operations, deployments, and training of officers,” the statement said. 

5:33 p.m. ET -- A Berlin police spokesman says that in addition to the nine dead in a Christmas market about 50 people were injured, including several critically. 

Winfried Wenzel told The Associated Press at the scene that among the fatalities was the passenger of the truck, who died as paramedics treated him at the scene. He offered no details on how the passenger was injured. 

Wenzel said the truck was registered in Poland, but that police were still investigating where it came from and who the driver is.

The Polish owner of the truck said he feared the vehicle, driven by his cousin, may have been hijacked. Ariel Zurawki said he last spoke with the driver around noon, and the driver told him he was in Berlin and scheduled to unload Tuesday morning.

Zurawki said that “they must have done something to my driver,” he told TVN24.

Berlin’s top security official, state interior minister Andreas Geisel, told RBB television that it was too early to say whether it was an attack, and said that reports the truck may have been hijacked were “pure speculation.” 

5:22 p.m. ET -- The White House released a statement Monday evening about the truck plowing through the crowd at the Berlin Christmas market. 

“The United States condemns in the strongest terms what appears to have been a terrorist attack on a Christmas Market in Berlin, Germany, which has killed and wounded dozens,” the statement read in part. “We send our thoughts and prayers to the families and loved ones of those killed, just as we wish a speedy recovery to all of those wounded.”

4:53 p.m. ET -- Berlin police are encouraging people to use a Facebook safety check to learn if loved ones are safe after a truck plowed into a crowded Christmas market. 

The tweet linked out to Facebook, which has set up checks periodically after natural disasters and attacks around the world. 

But police also asked people to refrain from spreading videos to protect privacy

 4:40 p.m. ET -- Germany’s justice minister says that federal prosecutors, who handle terrorism cases, are taking over the investigation after a truck rammed into a Christmas market in Berlin. 

Heiko Maas didn’t give further details in a post on Twitter Monday night about the “shocking news” from the capital. He added: “we are mourning with the relatives” of the victims.

Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere says that he’s in constant touch with security authorities, but didn’t give any indication in a statement whether they believe the incident was an attack.

BERLIN - At least 12 people were killed and dozens injured when a truck plowed through a crowd at a popular Christmas market in Berlin late Monday, police said.

Polizei Berlin said that a suspect had been arrested near the scene. A passenger in the truck died at the scene, although it’s not clear how or when that happened yet. The identity of the passenger and arrested suspect have not been released. Police spokesman Winfried Wenzel told ZDF television that the suspect arrested was believed to be the truck driver.

The incident happened in Breitscheidplatz, a major square in the center of the German capital, that is normally filled this time of year with people celebrating the holiday season. 

While officials haven’t stated whether it was an purposeful attack or an accident, CBS News correspondent Charlie D’Agata reports that witnesses said there was little doubt it was a deliberate attack based on the way it jumped the curb.  

Additionally, the incident happened just a few weeks after the U.S. State Department warned that various terrorist groups were going to be targeting outdoor markets and festivals this holiday season throughout Europe.

A large Scania truck with its windshield smashed out could be seen on the sidewalk alongside the market, although officials have not yet confirmed that it was the truck used in the attack.  

Witness Shandana A. Durrani said she was walking and texting when the truck entered the market about 20 feet away. She said she heard some popping but wasn’t sure if it was a gun or not.

“If I hadn’t stopped to check my phone, I would have been hit,” Durrani said. “Everyone went scurrying. So many people hurt.”

She said the way the market was laid out, “there was just no place to run so a lot of us hid behind other stalls.”

Every year, the city of Berlin hosts a Christmas market there near the fashionable Kurfuerstendamm avenue. The incident happened at the foot of the landmark Kaiser Wilhelm memorial church, which was kept as a ruin after World War II. 

Several people in the U.S. intelligence community told CBS News that the situation in Berlin has all the hallmarks of a terror attack.

Officials here in the U.S. say it bears similarities to the recent terror attack in Nice, France - in which 86 people were killed and hundreds injured - and is what terror groups have been calling for their followers to do.

German police have recently rounded up a series of people for planning attacks on Christmas markets, and even detained last week a 12-year-old Iraqi boy for attempting to set off a nail bomb in one of them.

CBS News correspondent Margaret Brennan reports the U.S. State Department issued a warning in late November specifically cautioning Americans in Europe to “exercise caution at holiday festivals, events, and outdoor markets.” The release cited ISIS, al Qaeda and “their affiliates” as planning attacks using “conventional and non-conventional weapons” focusing on the upcoming holiday season and “associated events.”

Many in Germany have been fearful of a rise in terrorism since the country took in more than a million migrants and refugees last year, mostly fleeing conflict in the Mideast. 

German prosecutors were already investigating a 12-year-old boy who allegedly attempted to set off a nail bomb at a Christmas market in the southern city of Ludwigshafen last week.

The German-born son of Iraqi parents is alleged to have tried to set off the device at the Christmas market on Nov. 26, and again outside city hall on Dec. 5, Focus magazine reported, citing security sources.

In the second failed attempt, a passer-by spotted the backpack containing the device and reported it to authorities. Inside they found a glass jar packed with firecrackers with nails taped to it, Focus reported.

Police said it would have burned but would not have exploded.

Stephan Meyer, the parliamentary spokesman on security issues for Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative bloc, said the boy apparently had turned rapidly to Islamic extremism.

“This shows how quickly the radicalization of a young person, a child, can take place,” he said.

In the Nice attack, officials said Mohamed Lahouaiyej Bouhlel deliberately drove a 19-ton truck into thick crowds on the French Riviera celebrating the country’s independence day.

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