The suspect arrested in the truck attack that killed 12 people and injured nearly 50 others at a busy Berlin Christmas market came from Pakistan and had applied for asylum in Germany, the country's top security official said Tuesday.
Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said the suspect, who denies involvement, entered Germany on Dec. 31 last year and arrived in Berlin in February.
The man was also known to German police in connection with a previous sexual assault, security sources told dpa. He was accused of hurling sexual insults during an assault, which happened in July this year, they said. Following investigations, his name was put on a Germany-wide criminal database.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel described herself as "shocked, shaken and deeply saddened" after what she said the government must assume was a "terrorist attack", while De Maiziere said that as far as officials know, Daesh has not claimed responsibility.
Merkel, who has been criticized for allowing in large numbers of migrants, addressed head-on the possibility that an asylum-seeker was responsible.
"I know that it would be particularly hard for us all to bear if it were confirmed that a person committed this act who asked for protection and asylum in Germany," Merkel said. "This would be particularly sickening for the many, many Germans who work to help refugees every day and for the many people who really need our help and are making an effort to integrate in our country."
Meanwhile, the right-wing populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) has been quick to condemn the migration policies of the German government.
"The borders have to finally be controlled so that no one can enter illegally, so that there can be no duplicitous identities, so that asylum seekers known to police can be immediately rejected," AfD Vice President Alexander Gauland said on Tuesday.
Only then can attacks like the one in Berlin on Monday be avoided, he added.
"We have always been pointing to the fact that the refugee policies of Angela Merkel carry with them very great dangers," Gauland said, taking aim at the German chancellor's decision to allow hundreds of thousands of migrants into the country amid Europe's refugee crisis.
The AfD has been able to capitalize on fears of terrorist attacks amid violent incidents in Germany and elsewhere, leading to a string of state electoral gains. It now looks set to enter the national parliament for the first time as Germany's third-strongest party in 2017 elections.
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