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19 Dec, 2016 19:23

12 dead, many injured as truck plows into Christmas market in Berlin in likely terrorist attack

Germany is reeling after a truck plowed into a Christmas market in western Berlin, killing 12 people and injuring dozens more in a suspected terrorist attack.

The incident took place at 8:00pm on the pedestrianized Breitscheidplatz, home to one of Berlin’s largest Christmas markets. It is beside the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church and also close to the city’s key shopping mile, Kurfuerstendamm.

LIVE UPDATES: Truck plows into Berlin Christmas market

At least 12 people have died and 48 others were injured in the Christmas market truck incident, Berlin's police said.

Two people were inside the lorry when it smashed into the market, a police spokesperson told Berlin Morgenpost. They confirmed that they are treating the incident as a suspected terrorist attack.

One of the people was captured on the at the scene, but later died. Another suspect was discovered nearby and taken to a police station, an official said. Police believe that the surviving suspect was the driver of the lorry.

Police later revealed that the lorry, which was loaded with steel beams, was Polish-owned.

The owner, Ariel Zurawski, told AFP the driver was his cousin and that he had not heard from him since lunchtime on Monday.

"We have not had contact with him since this afternoon. I do not know what happened to him. He's my cousin, I've known him since childhood. I vouch for him, " Zurawski said.

According to a spokesperson from Berlin Fire Department, “around 50” were injured. The Police later tweeted that approximately 45 people had been seriously injured and taken to hospitals.

Police evacuated the market and sealed the area off immediately after the suspected attack. A nearby Underground station, Zoologischer Garten, was closed at both the entrance and exit.

Law enforcement called on people in Berlin not to leave their homes and to refrain from speculating about the incident.

“Please help us. Stay at home & spread no rumors,” a  on a police Twitter account said.

They also asked people to avoid posting videos from the scene online in order to protect the privacy of the victims and their families.

Facebook set up a 'Safety Check' page for people in Berlin to let others know they are safe.

The suspected terrorist attack sparked an outpouring of condolences and condemnation both from within Germany and from around the world.

German Justice Minister Heiko Maas tweeted his sympathies to the victims and their families. “Shocking news from the #Breitscheidplatz. We mourn with the families. The Attorney General is taking over the case,” Maas said.

While the White House condemned what it said "appears to have been a terrorist attack," National Security Council spokesperson Ned Price said, “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. We also extend our heartfelt condolences to the people and Government of Germany."

One eyewitness told Ruptly that the truck missed him and his girlfriend by “a few metres.”

“We were inside the market, a truck came in it did not appear to be stopping, it missed by a few meters – three, five meters – and then almost immediately the truck had gone past us,” he said.

“We tried to see who was injured … then I tried to help some people lift the side of one of the stalls so that some other people could pull [victims] from underneath.”

READ MORE: ‘Terror has no borders’: Eyewitnesses of Berlin market carnage relay horrifying details to RT

The incident bears a striking resemblance to the attack in neighboring France this summer. On July 14, a truck drove into crowds of people celebrating Bastille Day in the coastal city of Nice, killing 86 people. Around 400 were injured in the attack, which French officials labelled a terrorist act. The driver of the lorry was later killed in a shootout with police.