The Polish truck driver found dead in his cab in the Berlin, Germany, Christmas market attack has been identified as a married father named Lukasz Urban.
The terrorist attack — in which a different suspect plowed the large truck into a crowd — resembled one this summer in Nice, France. Twelve people were killed in Berlin, and 48 people were injured, some critically.
The passenger in the truck, Urban, 37, a married father of one, died at the scene, said Berlin police. Police are now seeking a Tunisian asylum seeker, Anis Amri, in the attack. He was already under investigation and surveillance for alleged links to ISIS terrorism.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Urban’s Cousin Says the Truck Was Hijacked & Urban Was Killed by the Suspect
According to the UK Daily Mail, Urban was stabbed and shot and the owner of Polish haulage firm, Ariel Zurawski, “said the driver – also his cousin – was hijacked and killed by the man suspected of carrying out the attack.”
Urban was allegedly kidnapped as he stopped his truck to get a kebab in a depot in a Muslim area of Berlin.
German newspaper Bild reported that a relative who saw a photo of Urban said it looked like he had fought back, quoting him as saying, “It was terrible. There were bruises, fouling. His face was swollen. It looked like a fight.” Bild also said it was believed that Urban lived until the end and was then “assassinated” by the suspect.
German police had detained a suspect, but later determine that man was not the truck driver and that the real mass killer is still at large. The Telegraph said Germany’s Chief Prosecutor Peter Frank said, “He was possibly not the perpetrator.” Instead, authorities have turned their attention to Amri, after his stay of deportation documents were allegedly found in the truck’s cab.
According to Berlin police, “The truck at #Breitscheidplatz has a Polish license plate. There are steel beams on the load plattform.” The Welt said “there have been indications for a possible attack on a Christmas market in Berlin for several days.”
BBC said there were “growing indications” the truck driver was from Pakistan, but this was not yet confirmed. Other reports then said the man was from Afghanistan.
Berliner Zeitung newspaper said, “According to the findings of the security authorities, the arrested suspected driver was probably sent to Germany as a refugee in February. Lastly, there was no certainty as the man had used different names and thus his identity could not be clarified, the Deutsche Presse-Agentur learned early in the morning from security crises. There is much evidence that the man – an Afghan – was registered as a refugee when he entered Germany.”
2. The Truck Was Driving Erratically & Urban Was a Married Father of One
Daily Mail says that Urban had injuries indicating he had fought for his life, and his boss and cousin said his last known contact was with his wife around 3 p.m., a few hours before the Christmas market attack. According to the Mirror, the truck’s GPS recorded “unusual movements” at 3:45 p.m. on December 20 that “indicate Urban was not in control.”
“The car was started up, turned off, driven forward, then backward. As if somebody inside was learning how to drive,” Urban’s cousin said, the Mirror said. UK Daily Mail said Urban had a 17-year-old son and his wife is too distraught to identify the body.
The truck plowed down a crowded side walk at the Berlin, Germany Christkindlmarkt. Such Christmas markets occur all over Germany during the Christmas season.
“It drove into the crowd on a sidewalk, bringing down Christmas lights and smashing stalls at the festive market near the Gedaechtniskirche, or Memorial Church, in western Berlin,” said NPR.
One eyewitness told the media that people were “crushed” by the truck, which was going at least 60 kilometers per hour.
One witness, Jan Hollitzer told Al Jazeera: “It was really horrible, there were many casualties and injured people. I saw people hit by the truck and also people under the truck … I can tell you those are images you don’t want to see.”
3. The Truck Had Polish Plates & Urban Was Found Dead Dead Inside It
The owner of the truck told Polish radio that his cousin, Urban, was driving to Berlin in the truck. It’s not clear whether the truck was hijacked or not, but there seem to be indications of that.
A tweet from Berlin police said they believe the truck might have been stolen: “There is the suspicion that this lorry in Poland by a construction site has been stolen. The investigations to run. #Breitscheidplatz.”
The UK Daily Mail said the truck company said it lost contact with the truck driver in the afternoon.
The truck company owner told Polish news channel TVN24, according to UK Daily Mail: “I can say hand on heart that the man who drove into those people in the centre of Berlin was not my driver. This is my cousin. I’ve known him since I was born. My scenario is that they did something to the driver – they hijacked this vehicle because it was practically in the centre of Berlin and they had a good vehicle with which they could do what they did.”
4. ISIS Has Claimed Responsibility for the Attack
The Washington Post said authorities had yet to declare the tragedy a terrorist attack but were actively investigating that angle.
Donald Trump responded in a statement, saying the incident was a “terrible terror attack” and adding that: “Innocent civilians were murdered on the street when they were just about to celebrate the Christmas holidays.”
ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attack.
5. The Attack Came Just Hours After the Russian Ambassador Was Gunned Down in Turkey
The Berlin attack came just hours after a Turkish police officer in a business suit assassinated the Russian ambassador to Turkey at an art exhibit in Ankara.
The attack was eerily similar to one in Nice, France in August, in which 86 people were killed when a large truck drove into a crowd at Bastille Day festivities.