German police have released the man arrested over the Berlin terror attack over lack of evidence, meaning the real culprit is still at large and armed and dangerous.
Police urged people to remain “particularly vigilant” and to report “suspicious movement” to a special hotline.
“We have the wrong man,” an unnamed police source told Welt newspaper earlier. “This means the situation is different. The real culprit is still armed and can commit further atrocities.”
The man arrested on Monday night under suspicion of ploughing a 7-tonne truck through a Christmas market in the heart of Berlin, killing 12, was named in German media reports as a 23-year-old asylum seeker of Pakistani origin.
He denied involvement in the attack, according to police, and this evening he was freed.
Merkel Rift Widens
If the driver turned out to be an asylum seeker, Ms Merkel said, it would be “particularly sickening” for the “many, many Germans who every day help refugees” and for the “many people who really need our protection”.
“The problem for Merkel is that she is so closely identified with the refugee issue,” says Hendrik Traeger, a political scientist at Leipzig University. “She put her heart and soul into the open-door policy. For her, it’s personal.”
Politicians from the rightwing Alternative for Germany party seized on the Christmas market attack as a symbol of her failure. “These are Merkel’s dead!” tweeted Markus Pretzell, a AfD politician.
Long-time observers of German politics were shocked. “It’s a sign that next year’s campaign is going to be very unsavoury, very Trump-like,” says Jürgen Falter of Mainz University. “Blaming Merkel for that attack when we still don’t even know who carried it out and what their motives were marks a new coarsening of the political culture.”
But for Ms Merkel, the danger comes not just from the far-right but also from inside her own ranks. Horst Seehofer, leader of the CSU, the Bavarian sister party of her Christian Democrats, says it is time to “rethink and readjust our entire immigration and security policy”.
Such interventions from Mr Seehofer are not new. But the dissatisfaction runs deep even in Ms Merkel’s CDU. “We are in a state of war, although some people who always see only the good side don’t want to see that,” says Klaus Bouillon, the CDU interior minister of Saarland.
The rift dividing Ms Merkel from large swaths of her party was plain for all to see this month when delegates at the CDU’s annual conference in Essen voted to limit immigrants’ rights to dual citizenship in defiance of the party leadership.
If Merkel wins the German election, it’s because no one strong in CDU/CSU wants to challenge her.
Her immigration policy has been a disaster. The only person who would not do things differently is Angela Merkel.
Offered a chance to do things differently, she stated she would go back far enough in time to better prepare for the refugees.
That is an amazingly naive perception of the state of affairs. Had the doors not closed, the refugees would never have stopped. There would be millions more of them, had not the borders been shut.
To halt the refugees, Merkel chose to get into bed with the oppressive regime of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, dictator of Turkey, rather than handling the crisis (of her own doing), internally.
Mike “Mish” Shedlock