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Islamic State claims its ‘soldier’ carried out Berlin attack

12 died in Monday rampage; terror group says attacker targeted citizens of countries in US-led coalition fighting it in Iraq, Syria

Firefighters look at a toppled Christmas tree after a truck ran into a crowded Christmas market and killed several people in Berlin, Germany, Monday, Dec. 19, 2016. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)
Firefighters look at a toppled Christmas tree after a truck ran into a crowded Christmas market and killed several people in Berlin, Germany, Monday, Dec. 19, 2016. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

A “soldier” of the Islamic State group carried out a truck attack that killed 12 people at a Berlin Christmas market, a news agency linked to the jihadists said Tuesday.

“A soldier of the Islamic State carried out the Berlin operation in response to appeals to target citizens of coalition countries,” the IS-linked Amaq news agency said in a statement posted online, referring to countries in the US-led coalition fighting the group in Syria and Iraq.

The statement did not identify the attacker.

The truck was rammed into shoppers at the Christmas market in Berlin on Monday night, killing 12 people and wounding dozens more in what German Chancellor Angela Merkel said was a likely “terrorist” attack.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel arrives on December 20, 2016 at the site where a truck crashed into a Christmas market near the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedaechtniskirche (Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church) in Berlin. (AFP PHOTO / DPA / Maurizio Gambarini)
German Chancellor Angela Merkel arrives on December 20, 2016 at the site where a truck crashed into a Christmas market near the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedaechtniskirche (Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church) in Berlin. (AFP PHOTO / DPA / Maurizio Gambarini)

Police arrested a Pakistani asylum-seeker soon after the attack but released him on Tuesday for lack of evidence, leaving investigators to pursue their hunt for the real perpetrator.

While Germany has so far been spared the devastating jihadist carnage that has hit neighbouring France and Belgium, it has suffered a spate of attacks this year.

In some cases, the assaults have been claimed by IS and carried out by asylum seekers.

Two women mourn beside candles in Berlin, Germany, Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2016, the day after a truck ran into a crowded Christmas market nearby and killed several people. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)
Two women mourn beside candles in Berlin, Germany, Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2016, the day after a truck ran into a crowded Christmas market nearby and killed several people. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

On July 18, a 17-year-old asylum-seeker wielding an axe and a knife attacked passengers on a Bavarian train, injuring five people, before being shot dead by police.

The IS group released a video purportedly featuring the attacker announcing he would carry out an “operation” in Germany, and presenting himself as a “soldier of the caliphate.”

The US-led military coalition, which includes Germany, has been carrying out air strikes against IS positions in Iraq and Syria since 2014.

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