Responsibility for the recent terrorist attack in Berlin where a truck slammed into a crowded popular Christmas market has been claimed by ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria), according to a news agency run by the extremists. The attack, which killed 12 people, comes in the wake of news that ISIS has called upon their followers to execute Christmas attacks in Europe and Britain’s MI5’s warnings that both ISIS and al-Qaeda plan a wave of attacks throughout the European Union.
The Telegraph reported Wednesday that ISIS claimed responsibility for the Berlin terrorist attack via its Amaq news agency.
“A soldier of the Islamic State carried out the Berlin operation in response to appeals to target citizens of the crusader coalition countries.”
Those appeals include entreaties to people of Mosul, the embattled Iraq city currently being liberated by coalition troops — which includes Iraqi defense forces and various militia groups — and the Kurdish Peshmerga, to continue the fight of the caliphate, the assumed territory of the Islamic State. According to Iraqi News, a source from Nineveh Province told Alsumaria News that ISIS media was promoting the speech by of one of its leaders who was threatening to carry the fight to Europe and calling for attacks during the Christmas holidays.
“ISIS media outlets started to promote footage of one of the leader’s speech, at a mosque in the city of Mosul, threatening to attack European countries during Christmas celebrations,” Alsumaria reported the source as saying. “The ISIS leaders’ started to use Jumaa (Friday) Speech to declare that Mosul battle is not the end of caliphate, and there are other battles, especially in Syrian Raqqa.”
The report corroborated an article in the Daily Mirror in November where British domestic intelligence, MI5, passing along information provided by U.S. intelligence, warned that both ISIS and al Qaeda were planning attacks in Europe, particularly targeting popular shopping centers and public markets so as to maximize the number of casualties. Britain’s threat level has been designated as “severe” for the third consecutive year, an assessment that is explained as a terrorist attack being “highly likely” without evidence of an ongoing plot.
“Britain is very much in the sights of the jihadists but thankfully [past] plots and plotters have been disrupted and stopped,” a security source told the Mirror. Commending Britain’s record of “preventative operations” against radicalized extremists, the noted that “other European equivalents have been less successful, sadly.”
He continued: “This means the entire continent is vulnerable to attack as we have seen in France, Germany, and Belgium but particularly in the run-up to Christmas. It is a Christian period of festivities, bring together large crowds of soft-target civilians and will attract attention from those who wish to inflict harm.”
And it appears that, if the ISIS statement is confirmed, the terrorists have again exploited such a “soft target” vulnerability with the attack on Berlin’s Christmas market. The claim, according to The Telegraph, came just two hours after German authorities released a man without pressing charges after taking him into custody, suspecting him of being involved in the crash at the crowded Weihnachtsmarkt.
A Pakistani national seeking asylum in the United Kingdom had been arrested after a witness at the Berlin Christmas market followed the man, thinking he was involved in the crash, and called the police.
The truck had been driven into a crowd of Christmas shoppers on Tuesday, killing 12 and wounding another 49. In an extensive recounting of the horrific series of events comprising the Berlin attack, The Telegraph reported that an unknown man had hijacked a truck operated by a Polish driver earlier in the day and had driven at roughly 40 miles per hour into the crowded marketplace at approximately 8 p.m. A man, later identified as the truck’s driver, Lucasz Urban, was discovered in the passenger seat, dead from a gunshot wound.
The hijacker is still being sought by German authorities, who quickly began investigating the incident as an act of terrorism.
As noted, although ISIS has taken responsibility for the Berlin attack, thus far the claim has yet to be verified.
[Featured Image by Michele Tantusi/Getty Images]