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Pakistani refugee named as Berlin attack suspect by minister, police not sure they agree

Hannibal Hanschke / Reuters

The man, suspected of ramming a truck into a Christmas market in Berlin on Monday, is a Pakistani refugee aged 23, the German Interior Minister confirmed. Meanwhile, police say they aren’t sure if that man is the perpetrator.

Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere has confirmed that Naved B., who was arrested on suspicion of carrying out the Berlin truck attack, is from Pakistan and had applied for asylum earlier this year. He arrived in Germany last December and arrived in Berlin in February. De Maiziere also said the suspect denies the charges.

Meanwhile, Berlin Police Chief Klaus Kandt said that it is not absolutely clear if the detained Pakistani man is actually the driver involved in the attack. The investigators are “in fact uncertain whether that really was the driver,” he told reporters later on Tuesday.

The police also urged residents to remain vigilant and report any suspicious activity.

Earlier in the day, Die Welt quoted a high-ranked Berlin police source as saying, “We have the wrong man. And this is a new situation. The actual perpetrator is still at large and armed, and can inflict more damage.”

The source said all police and special forces units in the German capital have been informed and put on high alert.

Media reports also said the Pakistani man could have used a fake ID and an alias.

DPA news agency said Naved B. came to Germany via the so-called ‘Balkan route’, a popular passageway for refugees spanning between the Aegean Sea and Central Europe. The suspect was reportedly known to police for minor offenses.

The suspect has also had a German temporary residence permit since June 2016, Die Welt reported, citing police.

Die Welt daily reported that the original driver of the truck, a Polish man, had been shot dead prior to the attack. Regional police officials said he was a victim, not a perpetrator.

A Polish haulier, who also was a cousin of the victim and owner of the truck, said he lost contact with the driver on Monday at 4pm local time, according to the newspaper. It is still unclear how the Pakistani suspect managed to get into the truck.

Ariel Zurawski, the haulier who owned the truck, told Polish television he noticed that the vehicle was maneuvering in a strange way before the attack. “Someone was making forward and backward movements as if he was learning how to drive,” said Zurawski. He added that “someone was in the cabin” by the time he lost contact with the original driver.

Earlier, 200 officers of the elite SEK counterterrorism unit stormed a large refugee center located at Berlin’s defunct Tempelhof airport. Four men are understood to have been questioned, but were not arrested, Die Welt reported.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in a televised address that the truck attack is likely to be an act of terrorism committed by a man “who came to Germany to seek asylum.”

She said the country does not want to be paralyzed by terror, and promised that the government will take all necessary measures to ensure public safety. She is expected to visit the crime scene on Tuesday afternoon.

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